Saturday, January 20, 2018


Vacuum


There was a time in my life, when I was the father of only two children.  You would think that fathering two children would have been easier than fathering my, now, four children.  However, that is not the case, when one of the first two children is a terrifying, three year old with the destructive mindset of a gremlin.  It was not uncommon to hear the words “Mom! Isaac is chasing me with a dangerous knife!”
If my memory serves me correctly, in a short window of time, Isaac’s destructive behaviors were expressed by stepping on ink pads and then making footprints across the brand new basement carpet, chiseling a hole in the linoleum with a screwdriver, pocking holes in the kitchen floor with a “dangerous knife”, coloring the white changing table with crayons, chasing her sister with that “dangerous knife,” and finally throwing the vacuum cleaner down the stairs.
There is a saying, “You can either have nice things…or you can have children.”  It appears that we have chosen children.  Even if you didn’t know we had children, someone could walk into our house and immediately conclude, “Oh…you must have children.”
“Yes we do! How could you tell?”
“Oh…just the broken window, that hole in the drywall, the tear in the recliner, the broken picture frame hidden in your closet, the broken brush in the garbage, the loose toilet seat in your bathroom, the dent in your front door…”
“I see.”
Isaac’s streak of terror didn’t go without reprimand, yet often, the consequences seemed to go without effect…until now.  Isaac has transformed into a nice young man who, now, occasionally apologizes for breaking things!  Oh, how far we’ve come.
After Isaac threw the vacuum down the stairs…and had received his consequence…he returned to the scene of the crime...and began laughing.  With his older sister standing next to him, he gazed down the stairs, to where the broken vacuum lay, and laughter came from his belly. He said, “That was funny Hannah!”
Despite the consequences of his actions…somewhere deep inside he felt, “That was worth it!”…which pretty much meant, “I did not enact the most effective of consequences at that time.”
What Isaac did was wrong…but there is a story of a woman in the Bible (John 12:1-11) who did what was right…even when all others around her thought it was wrong.
In the story, Jesus is only a few days from his arrest and execution. There we find him eating a meal with friends and followers.  While he was there, a woman named Mary takes a bottle of perfume, valued at thousands of dollars…and she dumps it out on Jesus.  All of disciples and others, who are gathered, get in an uproar, “What are you doing? Don’t you know the value of what you just had?”
The answer, of course, is, “Yes…she knows.”…but she also knows that Jesus IS WORTH IT!
Throwing a vacuum down the stairs? Not worth it.
Giving Jesus anything and everything…totally worth it.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Biscuits


I commonly cook one meal a week for the family…usually a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night.  When it is my turn to cook, I default to my specialties…such as those high quality meals that only Dad can do the right way.
I might boil Oscar Mayer wieners…grilling is too risky when trying to make the perfect, “kid friendly” supper…too dark and you are a terrible cook because you burned them…
“They are not burned…they are just well done…plus it’s Black Friday…and I thought it might be nice to start a Black Friday tradition…well done wieners every Friday after thanksgiving!…kind of like Christmas cookies”
…not done enough, you may break a tooth on the frozen center.
I also might cook up some mean pancakes and waffles…and by mean, I mean… pancakes that are so mean they will tear you up on the inside and we won’t see you come out of the bathroom until Tuesday morning mean.
The best meal I have ever cooked, was a Dominos Pizza…I suppose, technically, I didn’t cook it…but I did place the order…choose the toppings (cheese), and hurry home with the prized supper, before it got cold.
Last week, I expanded into new territory.  It was Saturday night…and the menu had been planned…biscuits and gravy…but the best cook in the house (not me) was out of commission and it was time to send in the backup.  I knew that going into the “game” and taking over the role as “starting cook” was not going to be easy…so, I rallied my inner Case Keenum and went to work.
Step one: Panic.
Step Two: Check if the sausage was still frozen, and not too late to order pizza.
Step Three:  Panic again…but show no signs of strain…“I’ve got this dear…don’t you worry about a thing…Ummm…How do you make biscuits?”
Step Four: Read biscuit recipe on Bisquick box.
Step Five: Ignore recipe instructions.  In large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together with electric hand mixer…until bad smell and smoke emit from mixer.
Step Six: Make a mental note to replace the hand mixer.
Step Seven: Take runny biscuit batter and place on a cookie sheet. Bake until biscuits turn a rich, brown color and resemble a blob of spilled, butterscotch pudding.
Step Eight: Scramble to begin cooking the sausage that was forgotten until now.  Realize that the biscuits will be done before sausage and gravy…turn up heat to max and bring in hand held propane torch to speed the process.
Step Nine: “Sarah!?...How do you make gravy!?”
Step Ten: Ignore wife’s instructions. Make gravy like you mix drywall joint compound.
Step Eleven: Listen to the children’s words of affirmation and joy…
“What are these?”
“Biscuits.”
“They don’t look like biscuits…they look like…”
“That’s enough!...we don’t need to hear what they look like!”
“What’s this?”
“That’s gravy.”
“It looks like that stuff you patch the holes in the wall with…”
“It is…eat up!”
I don’t think the children really intended to speak such negative words about my cooking…but all of us say things, at times, without realizing the consequences of what we are saying…don’t we?
It was my lovely bride who spoke up at this point and said, “You know children…if I had cooked and heard the words that you shared just now…I would feel pretty bad.”
First born: “Sorry, Dad”
Second Born: “Sorry, Dad”
Third Born: “You know Mom…no offense…but I like Dad’s biscuits way better than yours…”
Fourth born: “Do I have to eat supper tonight?”
In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verses 49-53, something absolutely incredible happened.  It has finally come to the point that the Jewish leaders have had enough of Jesus and are ready to get him out of the picture.  The High Priest at the time, Caiaphas, said to the rest of the ruling council…“It is better that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish.”
What is so incredible, is that Caiaphas had no idea, as to the depth of what he was saying…and that by his actions…God was, indeed, going to save the entire nation…and the rest of the world too.  I don’t think my daughter, or any of my children, really meant any disrespect to anyone…but their words certainly carried a larger message.  Caiaphas had no idea at the size of the message that he had just conveyed either!
It, indeed, was better that one died…and in that death…and resurrection…Jesus brought something that only He can bring…Atonement! Salvation! Freedom!
Thanks Caiaphas!...and thank you Jesus!

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Kick to the Teeth


I woke up this morning with pain in my lower back.  I stepped out of bed and was reminded of the heel pain I have been dealing with for the last few days.  Once I was able to get vertical and head out of the bedroom, the realization of my stiff neck and headache hit me.  I must have slept wrong on my flat, lumpy, supposed to be soft, feather pillow.  As much as I refer to it as “my pillow” I don’ think it has the same attributes of a My Pillow.
I was reminded of a few years back; when I was struggling through a bout of plantar fasciitis…which is a fancy name for…foot pain.  I recall hobbling around the house…limp…limp…limp, while grumbling, “oooh…ouch…eeeeh.”  This pattern continued much of the morning….limp, “ouch”…hobble… “eeeeh”….stumble…“ugh”, until I reached my chair and sat down…“ahhh.”  After listening to my groans and watching my movements, my then 4 year old daughter finally spoke up and said…   “Dad…you should just die!”
Wow!...I gotta admit…that seemed a little harsh.  Wouldn’t “Dad…you should go to a doctor,”…or even “Dad I am sorry you are in so much pain.”…but die!? Really!?
So I asked her, “Die? Why would you say I should die?”
She replied without hesitation, but with just the slightest, “Dad you are so dull” tone…“Because if you die…then you get a new body!”
Ok…I didn’t see that one coming, but…she was right.  Granted, she had no idea what that would really mean for her…but she was right…if I died, I would receive a new, perfect body…because Jesus conquered death and sin.
In John 11:17-44, Jesus stood face to face with death and gave death a mighty blow, right to the teeth.  His friend, Lazarus, is dead…in fact, had been dead for four days…he was a rotting corpse.  Jesus looked at death…and recognized it for what it was; a picture of the corruption that God never intended.  Jesus then called Lazarus forth, kicking death in the teeth and setting up the final blow, which will be his own resurrection.  Because of how Jesus conquered death and sin…my daughter was right…even though I die, one day…yet will I live…and I will live with a new, resurrected body.  That is a promise not just to me.  It is a promise to anyone who believes in Him.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas Cookies



Christmas cookies are dangerous! They are all so tiny. You think that if you have just one…at a time…you won’t find them collecting on your thighs…but they still do.
Then, you begin to think that, maybe, if I “sneak” a cookie, without anyone knowing…then, perhaps, their caloric value is eliminated…or, at the very least, diminished…but again…it doesn’t…cookies are still dangerous.
I was a wrestler in High School, and Christmas always brought into focus the deflating obligation of weight management.  I learned to overcome the pull of Christmas goodies by sneaking them out of the freezer when no one was looking...if you are hungry enough…frozen cookies won’t deter you…(you might chip a tooth…but hey…Christmas cookies are dangerous).  Plus, if no one knows that you snuck a cookie…then the cookie doesn’t count!  Often, when I would sneak a cookie, I could justify it by convincing myself that I could burn the cookie off later…4 laps per cookie. Before I knew it, I had obligated myself 24 laps for my morning run…Christmas cookies are dangerous.  This strategy worked great…until Christmas.  My mother discovered that all of the Christmas goodies were gone! Ooops…I guess I got carried away!...Christmas cookies are dangerous.
“Who ate all of the Christmas cookies!?...I know it wasn’t the boys ‘cuz they have to manage their weight for wrestling.”
“Hmmm…should I tell her?...No…I’ll let Dad take the heat…”
And he did!
The other day, my wife…who shall remain nameless…tried to sneak a Christmas cookie from the freezer.  She didn’t have the same expertise or experience in nabbing a frozen cookie un-noticed.  She decided to put it in the microwave for a few seconds to thaw it.  Unfortunately for her…her 13 seconds inadvertently turned into 13 minutes.  Ooops!...Christmas cookies are dangerous.  Should have just eaten the frozen cookie!
Her little ginger cookie…transformed into a little ginger hockey puck.
If we actually had working smoke detectors…the kids would surely have awakened to find their sneaky mother, trying to hide a hockey puck in the garbage.  Instead, I was the sole individual left to laugh and mock her.
I am amazed at cooks and chemists.  I find it fascinating how people can develop recipes and new chemical compounds by putting different ingredients or chemicals together, to create something brand new!
If you combine egg yolks, corn starch, milk, coconut and sugar in a pot…and stir it continually, until it has boiled for 1 minute…the ingredients are transformed into an amazing coconut cream pie! (some details of the recipe have been omitted).
Our lives are intended to be transformed.  We have not been created to stay the same.  We have not been created to stay idle.  Rather, we have been created to continually be transformed into the men and women that God has planned for us to be, before we were ever knit together in our mothers’ wombs.
Our lives need to reflect that transformation.  We should be able to look back to who we were 1 year ago…and see that we are different today.
Titus 3:5 says, "...He saves us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit..."
God is doing a regenerating work in us...if we let him.
Are you different today?
Will you be different a year from now?


Saturday, December 16, 2017


Anticipating...Love


I love Christmas.  I mean, there is so much to love about the season isn’t there? I love the excitable nature of the children when it comes time to decorate the tree.  There is nothing quite like the shrill of a gleeful young voice, who has just had her favorite ornament stolen by her brother and broken in a spontaneous wrestling match! I love fixing broken ornaments…and lamps. 
I love having all kinds of delicious cookies and treats to test my will power…and fail.  I love adding additional holes in my belt with each passing week!...I have already added THREE this year…well…I “anticipate” adding three!
I love the Christmas music!  I wish I could listen to those same 3 songs all year long.
Most of all…I love the Christmas lights…when else do I get a chance to go on top of an icy roof and use little plastic clips that break in the 20 degree 20mph wind conditions to hang little clear glass bulbs from my gutters.  I love that fact that just being up there reminds me that I didn’t clean the gutters or down spouts last fall…or last summer…or last spring…or ever…I could do it now if the water wouldn’t freeze before it made its way to the ground…that would be fun too! 
I love how the light bulbs and wires get all caught up on each other and won’t come apart…and when you pull them out of the box and plug them in it looks like Frosty’s head, all glowing and cheery…and creepy.  I love how it’s like solving a Rubik’s cube to untangle them…I love puzzles. 
I love spending hours replacing all of the burnt out and broken bulbs.  It’s so fun trying to find the one single bulb that is keeping all of the other lights from working. 
I love how, when you finally get them all hung and you plug them in and admire your work, there is a 5 ft. section in the middle that doesn’t work…that’s my favorite!
Truth be told…if that is what I loved about Christmas…I’d likely find myself in a deep vegetative state sitting in the corner mumbling…“HO, HO, HO, HO, HO, HO” while trying to fix that broken ornament of my daughter’s.
No…what I love most about Christmas…is love.  There are 66 books in the Bible…60 of them use some form of the word love…some 686 times…which leaves me to assume, that love must be a pretty important message throughout the Scriptures.  In John 3:16, we find a powerful and profound statement…“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son.”  That is the epitome of Christmas.  God loves you…and gave you his Son…Jesus.  Merry Christmas!
What is even more humbling to me, is what we find in Romans 5:8…“God demonstrates his own love for us in this…while we were still sinners…Christ died for us.” Again…Merry Christmas!
Christmas…love it or hate it…it doesn’t change the love that Jesus Christ has for each one of us. It is a gift that has been given from God…to us…and no matter what you do…you cannot separate yourself from it.  You cannot flee his love…you cannot hide from his love…in the depths of our despair…his love is there.  Whether you are having a good day…a great day…or a day that resembles Mary Queen of Scott’s last day at Fotheringhay Castle…his love is there. 
That is what Christmas is all about…a Love that came down.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Anticipating...Joy


I have four children.  I remember the day each one was born…mostly.  The one that is always the clearest in my memory is my first born.  You’d think it would be the most recent birth…(the youngest)…but that’s not true…it’s the first.  It’s kind of like how I remember having my very first cup of coffee…I hated it…and now I can’t even remember how many cups of coffee I have had today.
Hannah, my oldest daughter, was born on the coldest day of the year…it was a cold day in late January…pushing 40 degrees below zero.  My wife, Sarah, was about a week overdue…all three of our girls were overdue.  I have learned a few things about interacting with a spouse who is pregnant and overdue.  Such as..."Don’t ________".  You could fill in the blank with anything you like…it’ll be accurate.  For instance, don’t eat all of the chocolate ice cream…that’s for her.  Don’t paint the walls…it smells bad.  Don’t let her see raw meat…it makes her sick.
Sarah always talked about loving being pregnant…up until the last 7-9 days…by that time she was just ready to be done.  I can’t say that I blame her.  Did you know that the average gestation period for a human is 280 days?  That leaves only 85 days when you wouldn’t be pregnant. That’s barely enough time to return the shirt you were going to lose enough weight to fit into, but realize that was just a pipe dream. 
We should just be glad that we are not elephants.  The gestation period for an African Elephant can be between 660-760 days! That’s crazy! I couldn’t imagine what that would be like…living with a wife who is 100 days overdue! That’s a lot of time to “anticipate” a new baby.
I remember the months, days and even the hours leading up to Hannah’s birth.  I remember hearing her heartbeat for the first time.  I remember feeling her move, and I remember watching her doing somersaults and contort Sarah’s belly.  Each visit to the doctor was a step closer.  Each day was one day closer to the due date…and then each day later was another day…late.  It could happen at any time.  Finally, seven days after Hannah’s due date…the doctor told us…it’s time…to induce.  What she meant to say was…“We will admit you to the hospital…hook you up to a bunch of tubes and wires and then you will have this baby in about two days from now.”
I remember the three hours of pushing…myself up out of the chair to encourage Sarah to keep breathing.  It’s hard to encourage your spouse to breathe when her left hand is closing in around your throat.
The room was filled with screaming!  I was saying push…breathe…you can do this!  She was saying…“Don’t touch me! Just Stop! I CAN’T breathe.” Everyone in the room is attempting to talking this hyperventilating patient down from the ceiling…when a new sound entered the chaos of the room.  The sound of a wounded, tiny, purple faced screech owl reached my ears and my life was totally changed.
I was filled with fear.  I was filled with joy like I had never experienced before.  I looked down and made eye contact with Hannah.  I still remember that moment.  I thought to myself…I don’t know what to do…I don’t even know how to hold her.  I still don’t know what I am doing…and I still don’t know how to hold her.
However…I still know the joy I felt that day.  The whole experience was a sequence of anticipation…drawing Sarah and I toward a joy that words cannot express.  Each day brought us closer and closer to the moment of our anticipation.
In Luke chapter 2, we read the well known story of the birth of Jesus Christ.  We read about how an angel appeared to the shepherds and they told them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  There is something there! God fulfilled ancient prophecies about a Savior that he had promised…that the people had anticipated...and it came in the form of a message of joy…that is for ALL the people.
It’s a message of joy for you…and for me.
What are you anticipating this Christmas?...Gifts? Family? Traditions? Trees?...Joy?

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Anticipating...Peace


My parents were good parents.  They would often take my brother and me to fun and exciting places… like “their” friend’s house, where they needed to “drop something off quick.”  My brother and I would wait in the car for them…and wait for them…and wait…for…them.  One time, my dad and his friend were standing in front of the car talking…and talking…and…talking.  No six year old boy wants to wait in a car and “watch” their dad talk to his friend for hours (probably 10 minutes…but it felt like hours).  As time would go on, my brother and I would get antsy.  On this particular day, I began to “fiddle” with the shifter.  This turned out to be a great lesson in physics and gravity, because as soon as the shifter slid into the “N” slot…I watched my dad and his friend become very wide eyed as the car began to roll down the hill toward them!  It is fortunate that at the age of six my dad was still only 27, so he had plenty of athleticism to jump out of the way and run after the car to jump in and hit the brake.
There was another exciting time when our mother took my brother and me to the local Catholic Church Carnival.  Here, they have all kinds of exciting games to play like…spin the wheel (at our young ages, spin the bottle would have been very inappropriate) and pop the balloon with a dart…yep…REAL darts!...with dangerous sharp metal points. This was at a time in history when you could still buy “Lawn Darts” at your local Pamida…which we all know now are very dangerous and very bad for you...and you should not make your own at home.
One of our favorite games at the carnival was the “fishing game.”  In this great game of skill…you would pick up a broom stick, which had a string tied to the end.  The string then extended down to a Land O Lakes ice cream pale.  The game player would then need to raise the broom stick with a bucket over a blue curtain (the blue curtain is symbolic of “water” in this story).  Once the game player felt a tug on the line…that person would again raise the stick and bucket back to their own side of the curtain and see what they “caught.”  My brother was the first to go…when he pulled his “fish” in…it came in the form of this really cool plastic frog that when you pushed down on the frog’s “backside” it would flip forward and hop across the floor.
I couldn’t wait for my turn!  I was bursting with anticipation!
I raised the stick…the bucket went over the curtain…I felt the tug!  I pulled the bucket back over!!!
Wait…what is this?
This is not a hopping frog…or a police badge…or a spooky spider ring…
This…is…a…barrette!!!  A HAIR CLIP!
Perhaps I neglected to share with you how my long haired, hippie parents had yet to cut their six year old son’s hair…EVER!!!
So much for anticipation!
I remember many Christmas gifts as a child. I remember the anticipation.  I remember in many cases having my anticipation being rewarded with exciting gifts that were exactly what I had hoped for.  I remember others when my anticipation was left stuck halfway down my throat as I attempted to croak out a “thank you” for this green worm windup toy from one of my aunts, (to remain nameless)…it’s just what a twelve year old hopes for…apparently sometimes our family members, who live long distances away and have not seen us in 8 years, think that time stops while they have been away.
I find Christmas to be a time filled with more moments of anticipation for me than any other time of year.  Yet, what I come to anticipate, looks much different now than it did when I was a child.  As I look to Christmas, I find myself looking forward to some times of quiet…rest…peace.
This causes me to reflect on what the angels told those shepherds on that first Christmas night in Luke 2:13-14…”Glory to God in the highest…and on earth PEACE, on whom his favor rests.”  I am coming to learn…where God’s saving power is displayed, his Glory is revealed…and, Peace comes when a relationship with that God of salvation is made right.  Jesus is the only way that relationship can be made right.
I hope that you will anticipate…and find…PEACE this Christmas.