Saturday, December 24, 2016


I have never really been left alone.  Sure there are times when my parents dropped me off on the side of a deserted road in the woods and drove off…but my brother was with me.   But even then, they always came back for us…though it was probably just for the tax deduction. Certainly there are times when as a child I wanted my siblings to “leave me alone,”…I mean do you have any idea what it is like to be the second oldest, but largest, strongest, smartest, kindest and most thoughtful of my parents’ four children?  It’s tough…it always seemed that I as the one who was picked on…if anyone tells you otherwise…it’s probably a close family member…but, as everyone knows, close family members are always stretching  the truth…am I right? 
When I had grown, I found still other times that I would have been left home alone, though usually just for a few hours here or there.  Last summer I read the book “Into the Wild,” the brief biography of Chris McCandless, who hitchhiked to Alaska just to live off the land alone in Alaska.  He succeeded…until he succeeded no longer.  Approximately 4 months after arriving in Alaska, Chris died alone in the Alaskan wilderness of starvation.

For some of us…being alone is perhaps one of life’s greatest fears.  I have in fact heard some people state directly to me that their greatest fear is dying alone.  Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who wrote a book entitled “No Man is an Island.” I can’t recommend it because I have never read it…but it sounds interesting…though I probably still won’t read it.  I do better with books like “Green Eggs and Ham” or  “Hop on Pop”…or “Into the Wild” as stated above…though I think I actually had to check to book out for like 3 months from the Library before I was ever able to finish it.  The premise of Merton’s book is the philosophy that there is not a single human being that can thrive all alone, we all need each other…God has created us for community. 
In fact, we see this community exist in God himself…the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  God has created us to community.  I believe that God valued our need for community so much that even when we are alone…we are not alone.  We see over and over in scriptures, how God promises to be “with us.”

God walked “with” Adam in the garden.  God was “with” Abraham wherever he went.  God told Moses that he would be “with” him at the burning bush.  God promised Israel, that he would be “with” them through the exodus from Egypt.  God promised his people through the prophet Isaiah, that God will send a savior to be “with” us…Immanuel.  There then came the day…when Jesus Christ…came to dwell “with” us in flesh.  God loves you so much…he is “with” you.  You are not alone.  You are not alone at Christmas…and you are not alone at work…and you are not alone at school…and you are not alone at home. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

I’d Like a Another Peace


We frequently hear or use the phrase “piece of the pie,” but, isn’t it more fitting to say that “pie is a piece of piece”…pie-ce...see what I mean?  I like pie.  There have been very few pies that I have not held dear to my heart.  The top two exceptions to my love for pie would be mincemeat and lemon meringue.  I know right…you can understand the mincemeat…but the lemon meringue? You all think I’m crazy.  Well, truth be told I had a traumatic experience with a lemon meringue pie as  child at my grandmother’s house during thanksgiving one year.    After the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and gravy, (of which I ate only the turkey and bread), out came the pie.  My mother came from a family of 9 children including herself, and so when it came to dessert you had to be quick and get what you fancied or you would be out of luck sucking on a peppermint drop you found under the couch, covered in cat hair for dessert.
I remember my grandmother cutting these amazing looking pies in the kitchen.  She had several pumpkin pies, cherry pies, and lemon meringue pies.  My eyes fixed on this pie…with all of the fluffy white creamy goodness piled high on top of who cared what was below.  That was the pie I wanted…and being grandma’s favorite…(don’t tell my cousins…or brothers and sister for that matter…and if they say anything different they are wrong…after all she never called any of them Ryan…it was only me she called that…so I must be her favorite).  Grandma cut me a nice big slab…I took it into the other room…I sat down…stuck my fork into this tall, thick, fluffy pie…my first bite landed right back where it came from.  I hated it!  “You call that whipped cream?”...”no”…”it’s called meringue.”  The saddest part of the story is I missed my window.  All of the remaining pies were gone…I was left with a broken candy cane…I never liked candy canes much after that either.
Holidays were hardly a peaceful time at grandma’s house.  It’s not that there was a lot of conflict…though it probably existed as it does in every home, but I was just too young and cared only about presents and pie.  The lack of peace came from the vast number of people…the noise…the laughter.
However, despite the noise…I don’t ever recall an inner turmoil at grandma’s house.  She was an amazing woman, who left you feeling confident and comfortable…that all was well with the world.  Maybe it had to do with my age more than grandma…or maybe both.
Now I am older, and sometimes I wonder did my peace die with grandma? Because, both seem to be absent.  When we read the Christmas story, we come to this part where the Angel encounter the shepherds.  The Angel says to the shepherds…”I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
The world was far from at peace during this volatile time in Jewish and Roman history.  Likewise our world is far from at peace.  We have country fighting country, country’s fighting themselves; we have republicans and democrats fighting...on and on it goes.  So, where can we find peace?  There is only one place.  We can find peace in the arms of a God who loves us enough to send his Son to die for us…because he “favors” us so much.  That…is where you can find peace this Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Not Fair!!

I went to visit my friend/colleague in the hospital this past week.  He technically hadn’t been admitted…it was his wife…and then a short while later…their new born son.  Though I couldn’t stay long, (because, I had to pick up my own 12 year old first born and her 3 younger siblings from school), the visit was fabulous.  I loved holding this 1 day old baby boy.  It reminded me of how my life changed in indescribable ways when our daughter arrived.  It was at this moment, when I learned some things about love that I had thought that I had known prior…but I was wrong.  I learned about love in a brand new way. 
This new daughter of ours has experienced “unfairness” more than any other of our children, simply because she is older, and she has had to endure the addition of siblings more than any of the others…and she has had to endure her siblings’ birthdays more often than they have had to.  She has never shied away from expressing her feelings of unfairness…where at each birthday party, (that is not her own), her brother and sisters receive all of the gifts that she wished that she could have…a new bike, Little People bus, Polly Pockets, American Girl Doll outfits…etc.  When each of these gifts, (and more), were opened the words “ahhh! Not fair” were loudly proclaimed from her lips.
I remember as a child, I would also express the lack of fairness in much the same way…”Mom! Dad! Why does Ross, (that’s my brother), get a new walkman” (this is one of those hand held “cassette” players that would pull your pants down when you would clip it to your waist while trying to go for a run), “that’s what I wanted!”(...the walkman…not the pulling of the pants thing…that’s awkward, but it came with the territory…)”That’s not fair.”  My father with the wisdom of a gypsy fortune teller would say, “That’s because we love him more…”  “Huh?”

For years I was dumbfounded by this response, then I learned about reverse psychology.  I came to realize that this must be my Dad’s way of saying…”Ryan…you are really my favorite…but I don’t want your brother to know about it…because he might feel bad.”  This had to be it…because I knew that I MUST be his favorite.  So he was really saying…he loved ME more.  Though this doesn’t explain my 20th birthday…hmmm…maybe forgetting a child’s birthday is really a way of showing that you remembered it…but it sure didn’t feel like it.  (They really didn’t forget the birthday…but…kind of…)
Have you ever stopped to think about love?  I mean really, think about it...where does it come from?  When we had our first child…we didn’t have to say…”I guess I will have to choose to love this child,” (though perhaps a few times since then), the love came naturally…but it came from somewhere. When we had our second child…then our third…then our fourth…the love, just never ran out…in fact, the love never even depleted…the well never even got shallower.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter.  It is often used at weddings, but it is so much more than just a feel good chapter about love.  This chapter expresses what God gives to us in his Son Jesus Christ. God “loved” the world so much…that he gave his son…while we were still his “enemies,” he loved us.  When we come to the end of things, we will find three things remaining…faith, hope and love…and the greatest of the three…is love...God's love will NEVER will ALWAYS continue.  If love were fair...I'd be out of luck.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Ultimate Fighter

I had my first encounter with cage fighting when I was about a year old.  I stood in the corner of my cage, each hand grasping the top of the adjacent railings to my left and right.  I stared at my opponent and screamed.  He, in the opposite corner stood, with eyes wide open, cowering.  I could smell the fear on his breath…or perhaps it was the smell of Enfamil…hard to tell.  My opponent being 14 months older than myself was still no match for me…I had a diaper and I knew how to use it. My brother and I shared a cage for the first year of my life…then I became the victor…I owned the cage...and had it to myself.

My second encounter with “Ultimate Fighting,” was in college.  I had been approached by a friend, from high school, who had earned himself a black belt in the fine are of Karate…it’s always more fun to pronounce it…car-rot-tay…try it…see what I mean?  He had begun to transition into some jujitsu training and asked for my help.  I assumed that this was because of my athletic prowess…but, after the fact, I think it may have had something to do with the fact that he wanted to punish me for dating his sister.  I do believe that his hope was that, I, as a wrestler, would be able to provide him with a different style of sparring compared to his normal martial arts partners.  We worked out in his basement, in which he had mats laid out from wall to wall. 
After a little workout on our feet with takedowns…we took to the mat where we began sparring in efforts to make the other person “submit.”  There are pretty much two ways to get someone to “submit”…or “willingly quit.”  #1. Generate such legal pain that the other person begins whimpering, sniveling, crying for their mother, or they become deathly afraid of breaking a body part.  #2.  Pass out.  We sparred for about an hour and a half each creating submissive situations with the other.  I used my wrestling to create submissive leg locks (illegal in wrestling…but not ultimate fighting).  While he worked chokeholds on me…making me whimper, snivel, cry for my mom and afraid eyes were going to pop through my nose…I know…that’s not realistic…but it sure felt like something was going to pop…so…my ultimate fighting career ended after about an hour and a half of training.
I think submission is interesting.  The Greek word for submit is hupotasso, which is actually two Greek words, upo and tasso.  Upo in the Greek means “to place under,” while tasso means, “to put into order.”  So in the Greek culture the word, hupotasso, would refer to putting yourself under the order of another.  It would often be used in the context of the military, whereas, soldiers would be put, or would place themselves, “under,” the rule of the authority placed in their lives.
Ephesians chapter 5:21-6:4, sets the stage, for some amazing scriptural imagery of submission.  The entire book of Ephesians has been painting this picture of unity that God creates in people who choose to follow him, and how a sign of spiritual maturity is, in fact, unity.  We also see how as we become “mature” followers of Christ, purity should follow, and our lives should begin to look more and more like the character of Jesus.  Now, while understanding this “unity” in the Body of Christ, we see Jesus call his followers to “submit” to one another.  Talk about counter cultural.  While we live in a culture that cries for justice and fairness…we see Jesus call us to submission.  Jesus calls us to say…”I am willing to be second.”  What would our culture, our country, our world look like…in the spirit of submission?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Dump Truck

Dump Truck

So my son and I were planning on heading up to northern Minnesota recently to do a little grouse and squirrel hunting.  We woke up early and made our way out to the truck at 6:00 a.m. while it was still dark to get a chance at some of those early birds.  After we had loaded the truck…we climbed in…I turned the key…only to find that the truck would not start.  I turned the key…the starter would engage and the engine would turn over…but there was no sign that the engine even wanted to attempt to run.  I knew I was low on fuel, so it seemed a simple solution to get some gas and try it again.  I grabbed my empty gas cans and threw them into my wife’s van…ok…not true…I gently placed them into the van so as not to spill any drops of residual fuel. (Also, I am sure someone will take issue with the fact that I called it my wife’s van…as if it’s her responsibility to take care of the kids because the minivan is a mom’s vehicle…it’s not just a mom’s vehicle…grandmothers can drive them too…I’m joking…I’m joking…although it is true).  In any case…wouldn’t you know it…the van wouldn’t start….battery dead.  I have come to the discovery that when children play in a vehicle…and leave the lights on and doors open…it drains the battery…weird huh?  What does it take for children to learn this?...maybe if I took away their iPad charging cables they would come to realize that batteries go dead when there is no source to charge them.  Anyway, I put the charger on the van battery…about 15 minutes later…we are heading to the gas station…we get the gas…we bring it back…put it in the truck…truck still won’t start.  It is becoming rather obvious that I have bigger problems with the truck than just being out of gas.  After 2 hours of struggle, my wife graciously offers us to use “her” van…yes…I said it again!  But seriously! It’s ok!  She likes “her” van! It has heated seats!
While my son and I are gone…all I can think about is, “What am I going to do with the truck when I get home?”  I find myself hoping beyond hope, that I will arrive home and have found that the truck has somehow “fixed” itself.  So, after chasing one bird, and killing one squirrel, my son and I arrive home, and the first thing I do, is to try and start the truck.  Nothing has changed.  The truck is still broken.
It was absurd for me to think that somehow, my truck would have any ability, to repair itself…yet, that is exactly what I had hoped for.  Ironically, I find that I treat my spiritual self in the manner.  The truth is that I am broken…and as much as I think that maybe I can fix my own brokenness…I can’t.  In fact, it’s absurd for me to think that I can.  How many times have we struggled with sin…you know…the sin…that one sin that keeps rearing itself in our lives…gossip, hatred, lust, infidelity, drunkenness…the list goes on…and just when we think WE have achieved victory…there it is again…and we find ourselves once again at the bottom of the pit of self hate asking, “why can’t I stop?”  Well…it’s because we can’t.  We cannot fix our brokenness.  It’s silly to think that we can obtain purity without Christ…yet, we are called to a life of purity…so what choice do we have…but Jesus.
Our choice boils down to just two options.  #1, stay broken.  #2, Ask Jesus for help.
He promises that he will fix our brokenness…and lead us into purity.  Ephesians 4:17-5:20 is filled with the call to purity, but, in the midst of the call is Christ.  Christ, who calls us into purity, leads us to purity and longs to make us to look more like him.
My truck has been repaired.  I performed what is called the "dump truck" method to access the fuel pump.  Though my truck is up and running...I wish I found the repairs to "my brokenness" coming as simply.  That however, is not the case...but, the Lord uses the journey through my brokenness to bring about greater character in me...which begins to look more like His.  It's His work...not my own.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I had a roommate in college, who happened to be a big Country Music fan.  He particularly enjoyed the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Mac Davis.  Truth be told, most of us probably don’t know who Merle Haggard even was.  I say, was, because…well, he died.  In fact, he died just this past year in 2016…on his birthday of all days!…(that’s just bonus information that no one really needed to know…but you can’t deny the irony…I mean that’s like a 1/366 chance!...yep, leap year!).  Even, if we happen to know Merle…what about Mac?  I have never been a fan of Country Music, (bluegrass would be an exception…but that’s not so much country as it is…well, folk), so it comes as no surprise, that I have no knowledge of Mac Davis.  Despite all of this, my roommate would frequently walk around the apartment, in the same clothes he had been wearing for the past 4 days or so, (like the rest of us), singing, Mac Davis’s famous, (is it really famous if no one knows who he is?)…”O Lord it’s hard to be humble…when you’re perfect in every way, I can’t wait to look in the mirror, cuz I get better looking each day.” 

I believe that the Lord desires to keep us in a humble state.  Mac Davis may learn that eventually…or maybe he has, because…like…no one has really ever heard of him.  A few years ago, I was pheasant hunting with some friends.  I had previously, been pheasant hunting once in my life…on a game farm.  When you hunt pheasants on a game farm, you can shoot both roosters and hens.  When you hunt “wild” birds, (not on a game farm), you can only shoot roosters… no hens.  Because of my lack of experience, I am already feeling inadequate and apprehensive.  Yet, I find myself having a strong urge to demonstrate my hunting prowess by impressing my fellow hunters with my crack shot…which really doesn’t exist…but I wish it did.  As we are plodding through the field the dog in front of me is getting very excited…”birdie” as they call it…and then so am I!  I am getting excited…and jumpy, but, I am ready…I am focused…I am going to bring down this bird…the bird flushes…someone yells “HEN” (which means don’t shoot), BANG! My gun goes off! “HEN!” is yelled again…BANG my gun sings again…the hen flies away.   Ok, that’s humbling on a number of levels…

I wish the story ended there…but it doesn’t.   After lunch we head back out…and this story repeats itself…to a tee!….My friend’s calling “HEN!”…my gun, answering their calls with BANG! BANG!…and once again…hen flies away!  I am only thankful of the fact that my double barrel only holds 2 rounds, so as to not have shot “at” any more hens or have “missed” any more hens…

If we are going to be honest…it is hard to be humble.  It’s interesting how often, at the peak of our pride…humility quickly follows, thus verifying the phrase, “Pride comes before the fall.”  The Bible has a lot to say about humility.  James 4:6 states, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”  We also find passages, such as Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In Ephesians chapter 4, vs. 1-16, we read about how Paul describes mature believers in Christ.  It’s fascinating to me, that one of the first steps…and, in fact, one of the true signs of maturity…is humility.  I feel that, often, our “maturity” leads us to believe in our own superiority.  I think perhaps we need to take a step back and relearn humility in our journey to maturity.

Friday, September 30, 2016


As often as I can, I like to ride my bicycle to the office in the mornings.  It’s really quite astounding as to how many treasures you find along the road.  If I chose to stop for every aluminum can, I’d bet that I’d have saved up $2 or more!!! Wow, right? I usually pass on the aluminum cans, but I’ve been known to stop and pick up, coins…lot’s of coins, paper money in the increments of $1, $5, $10 & $20!  I have stopped to pick up copper tubing, brass fittings, copper wire, scrap aluminum and lead wheel weights.  I take these treasures and recycle them for money!  People have called me cheap…can you believe it?  Cheap would be piling all of this stuff in my garage until I find time to strip the insulation off of every wire…I would prefer you not look inside my garage at this time…

This past week, while riding to the office, I was treated with a very unexpected treasure.  I was heading north on county road 76 when I encountered a raft of ducks…all mallards.  I came incredibly close to them before they took flight.  I was so close, in fact, that it felt that I could have easily have swatted one with my hand. (Why don’t you ever see that while hunting?)  As the flock took flight, directly over me, I was greeted with a nice blob of brown green excrement landing on my bare right leg…ummm….ewwww.  My first instinct was to wipe it off…but, then it would be all over my gloves….soooo….I kept on pedaling.  This little duck treasure mixed with my sweat and began sliding down my leg. Unsure how to best handle this, I pedaled faster, trying to get to the office to wash it off before this nastiness made it all the way down to my socks.

Fortunately, I made it, and was able to hobble into the bathroom to wash and scrub, and scrub some more, until I felt that my leg had been thoroughly cleaned.

It’s interesting to me…how appalled we can be with the nasty, yucky, icky things that we encounter physically…and truth be told, they are nasty, yucky and icky.  Yet, if we were to be honest with ourselves, some of the biggest yuck hasn’t been duck poo on my leg…rather, it’s something on the inside.

There is an amazing and beautiful passionate prayer from the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 3:14-21.  He prays that the Holy Spirit will do a work…a life changing work…on the inside.  Paul prays that the power of the Holy Spirit will change us. Before our outside can really be different...something must happen on the inside...something that we cannot do...but the Holy Spirit can.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Something's Missing

As I stepped outside of the house to take my oldest daughter to the middle school, I found the windshield of my truck covered with ice…not frost…ice.  I came to realize…summer is over.  I know…fifty percent of you are in denial that summer is really over and the other fifty percent are embracing the fall (hunting season!).  The reality of it is, that it happens every year.  In fact, there are years where the end of summer seems to take place in August.  Fortunately, this year, the bite of cooler weather at least waited until mid-September.  Fret not; I am sure that we will have some more warm weather days to come…you can put as much confidence in my words as that of  our Minnesota Meteorologists, Sven Sundgaard, Chris Shafer, Belinda Jenson, or Ken Barlow…(no offense intended for any of the fore-mentioned). 

This past summer has left me with many fond memories.  Memories like going to a Minnesota Twins game with my father and my son, watching my 9 year old daughter catch a 19” bass on the Mississippi River, taking our first ever family camping trip…we drove the entire 0.8 miles to Charles Lindbergh State Park and stayed in a tent…all in the same tent…all six of us…one tent…seriously! Can you believe it?...I’ll tell you this…I definitely didn’t get cold.  I also remember the countless hours our family spent lakeside with family and friends.

In July, we were visiting a family from the church, at their lake cabin, on a Sunday afternoon.  We spent the day on the water, swimming, paddle boarding, tubing, pontooning, (that’s not really a word…don’t bother looking it up)…and of course, attempting to paddle boat.  As we arrived, the first thing our two youngest daughters, ages 9 and 6, did was run into the paddle boat and beg for a chance to go.  Our friend, Kevin, already in grandfather mode, helped the girls in and set them adrift to paddle into the windy, blue, white capped waters of Crookneck Lake. 

The girls paddled excitedly, yet uncontrollably.  They paddled hard with their feet and struggled to learn to steer.  To no avail, Kevin and I both called out words of encouragement and instruction as to how to control the small watercraft.  Eventually, it became evident that our efforts were useless.  All the two young girls had done was nothing but spin in circles, while the wind continued to blow them to the east and into a tree near a small dock against the shore.  I scurried across the shoreline…tied the hapless craft to the dock, where it sat, until, their older brother decided to show them how it was done.  My son, (their older brother, age 10) taking sole command of the vessel, untied the boat and paddled out into the wavy water...where he too found himself doing nothing but spinning in formless circles, entirely without control.

We came to finally suspect that something was wrong.  We coached my son to hop from seat to seat, pedaling in different positions, to get the wayward frigate back to shore by leaning one way and then another, to prevent the continuing circles of death.

We threw him the rope, and were able to secure the barge to the dock.  We inspected the boat to find…there was no rudder.  Somehow…at sometime…the rudder had fallen off into the depths of Crookneck Lake.  I was reminded what James 3:4-6 says, …take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

I cannot tell you, how many times, I have observed people use words to cut others down.  There is no place for that in the church.  Jesus says that “…everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  A tiny thing like the tongue can steer our lives toward love…or can lead our lives to be a circle of death.  Let’s use our tongues to bring life…and not death.

Friday, September 9, 2016


You ever get the feeling like you don’t belong?  You know like when you walk into an empty restroom at the mall, when suddenly you find your self six strides into the room, only to realize…”why are there no urinals in here?”  You’d like to turn and run without being noticed but as you turn, you see the inevitable angry eyed woman glaring at you from the door that she has just entered…

This will NEVER happen to me…again…or at least I sure hope not…

When it comes to belonging…there are times when I (and likely all of us) feel like that proverbial “square peg, in a round hole.”

Times like getting picked last for teams in gym class, or times when you are trying to engage in a conversation and you find yourself closed off by the conversationalists…I usually just assume it’s because of my bad breath that they don’t want to talk to me…so instead of getting upset or feeling bad…I just go eat a garlic breadstick or broccoli, or radishes (they both give me nasty burps…but they taste so good!) from the buffet table and try my luck elsewhere…usually with the same result. 

When it comes to belonging…it can feel like vegetable Jell-O…it just doesn’t fit.

Yet, what I find fascinating…is that we can take people…my wife and I for example.  We are opposites.  Sure we have some things in common.  We are both SUPER athletic, and even MORE humble.  We have our faith in common…but we have so many things that are just contrasting.  Such as, she is organized…I am not as organized…like…not organized.  She likes to be planned out…and I like to take things as they come.  I like watching super hero movies…she likes sleeping through super hero movies…ok…so how do you fall asleep when the Incredible Hulk is eating helicopters like chocolate covered grass hoppers.  Yet…we work well together.

The point is…though we are different…it works.  In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul paints this picture of how each person who has said yes to Jesus…become one.  One church. One Body.  Unified.  What would it look like if God's people were unified...if the church…was unified.

I am very excited to share with you this Sunday…as we come together…to follow Christ…unified.

Friday, September 2, 2016

I AM...The Greatest

There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about who is the greatest NBA player of all time.  Some hold to Michael Jordan, while a younger generation seems to gravitate toward LaBron James.  In fact, I believe that there are some who could put together a strong argument for Wilt Chamberlin.  Truth be told, I think it’s none of the above…I’d put my money on Bugs Bunny.  Truth, truth be told…I don’t really care.  Basketball and I go together about as well as the Wicked Witch of the West and swimming.  To me “dunking” is something I do in my coffee,  “dribbling” is what I sometimes do on my shirt while sipping on an iced mocha during a long road trip, and rebounding is what happened after a Jr. High breakup…I cannot say that I have ever had a “Jr. High Break Up”…though I had plenty of “break outs!”

We deem a lot of things to be great, i.e. Wayne Gretzky is known as “The Great One.”  I asked my wife during these past Olympic Games in Rio…will records ever cease to be broken?  For example: It was believed that Michael Johnson’s 200m dash record would never be broken…Well, Usain Bolt proved that wrong.  It has now been said that Usain Bolt’s records in both the 100m dash and 200m dash records will never be broken…we’ll see.  Katie Ledecky’s 800m freestyle world record was phenomenal…when will it stop…who will eventually be THE GREATEST?

I find it fascinating that everything that we encounter in this world…even the greatest experiences of our lives…fall under the greatest thing/person/picture ever.  Eph. 1:15-23, leads us into this imagery of who Christ is.  How he has been exalted to the “highest” place…to the right hand of the father…and how “everything” has been placed “under” his feet.  He is the greatest.  What is perhaps even more astounding…is that Jesus Christ in all of His greatness…gives it “all” to us.

If you are looking for something that is truly great…there you have it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Who Are You?

I have an older brother.  He has more hair than I do, but less notches available on his belt.  We are only 14 months apart in age.
Because my brother and I were so close in age...and, of course, since we share the same parents, (see definition of brother), we often were mistaken for twins.  I cannot fully understand this because I am so good looking and physically fit and he is...well...not.  I recall time when we as kids would be walking down the halls of our elementary school and people would look at us, point and stare, while saying..."Hey, look at those twins" if we were some circus side show...perhaps it's because we were always dashing out the door in the morning at the last minute to catch the bus and didn't have time to do anything with our hair...yes...there was a time when hair existed on my fact, I had hair all the way through elementary school.
As we grew older, it was not uncommon to have these events of mistaken identity continue...
ON one such occasion, I recall walking through the Fergus Falls Fleet Farm, where my brother worked at the time.  A coach from one of our rivalry high school wrestling teams approached me and mistook me for my brother, (who had already graduated high school...though I had not)...this coach began to tell me how his wrestler is going to beat my brother (remember...that's me...the brother), and consequently our wrestling team.  Rather than correct him and reveal my identity, I took the opportunity to engage in the conversation and exaggerate my own abilities..."What are you nuts? brother (, is unstoppable...he just put up 250lbs. on the bench press last week and he is eating raw chicken eggs, spinach, and rocks for breakfast...he is goin to destroy anyone you put on the mat"...the coach walked away looking at me oddly.
If we were to be totally honest...I think each one of us has either, been mistaken for someone else at some time...or mistaken someone for being someone else.  In fact, I bet there are times when we would rather be...or at the very least, like to pretend, that we are someone other than ourselves.  I believe that sometimes our past, rears its ugly head, and tears us down again and again, telling us we are not worth anything...especially God's love.
Ephesians 1:4-5 says otherwise.  "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-"
Do you see that?  He chose us! In Love! Adoption to the family of Christ! With Pleasure!
Each one of us has value...not because of how much money we make, or give, or what clothes we wear...or don't wear...(that could be awkward)...or what talents we have, or how we serve the church, or even how we love people...
Simply have value...because God says you do...
Perhaps we need to take a closer look at "Who we are?"
I challenge you to take some time and read, Eph. 1:3-18, and Romans 8:22-27 and reflect on what god says about you...let it permeate...let it sink in...let it affect the very core of your heart.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Our daughter had her tonsils out this past Wednesday.  I find it absolutely remarkable how efficient the surgery clinic was.  I mean they had our third born, taken out of the pre-op room, put to sleep….(the last thing she remembered was feeling weird and her mom beginning to look kind of "creepy"), and I kid you not the doctor was talking with us 15 minutes later.  I can’t change the oil in my car that fast...I can’t run a mile that fast…I can’t eat a donut that fast…wait…that one is not true…I think I could eat several donuts that fast.

I was astounded, and I remember wondering, “How many times do you suppose this doctor has performed this procedure?” Then, I thought about the reality that there must have been a time when he performed his FIRST tonsillectomy.  Truth be told, I am glad our daughter wasn’t his first.  But even for his first, he MUST have studied, and studied, and practiced (if you can even practice for a tonsillectomy).  I cannot imagine all the work that he must have put in, and hours of study he must have engaged in to be as good as he is, at what he does.

This reminded me of the Olympics…how these athletes, work and work and work, to achieve that prize, of a gold medal being hung around their neck. 

We find in 1 Corinthians 9:22-27, another example of how Paul uses the illustration of “Olympic” type games to compare with the prize that awaits for us at the completion of this race we find ourselves in.
Following Christ...takes work...are we willing to rise each morning...set our faces toward the prize, and run?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Don't Look Back, You're Not Going That Way

My children are older than they have ever been…and now they are even older…

It’s hard for me to watch home videos of when the children are young.  I find myself slipping into a depression of sorts,  longing to relive some of those moments.  I find myself sad, that I didn’t relish those times more.  I think of all the cute things that they would say and do…

I remember the spills…oh how I hate spills…ugh! I hate my feet sticking to the floor from spilled kool-aid, spilled sugar…spilled milk…when milk is spilled and not cleaned up…it begins to stink…they say there is no use crying over spilled milk…whoever they is…are wrong…

I remember things that they would break…lots of breaking…vacuums, drawers, doors, tables, dolls, floors…how do you break floors?...think fillet knife and linoleum, (I know…what kind of father leaves a fillet knife where a 2 year old boy can reach it…apparently this one). 

My depression has just turned from depression to dread…

It is easy to be consumed with our past.  I don’t know if you realize this, but I am not as young as I used to be.  In fact I am older than I’ve ever been and now I’m even older…

The older I get the better I was…

I occasionally try to prove…either to myself, or others…or both…that I’ve still “got it”

I went waterskiing last weekend…yep…I’ve still got it…I also got sore muscles that I don’t think existed when I was 20 years old.

In Philippians 3:12-21, Paul talks about, forgetting what is behind…leaving the past in the past…and pressing on toward the prize that is set before us…

Sometimes our past can consume us…whether it be good, or bad…longing to relive…or wishing we could forget…

But in either case, we are called to look forward…to the future…to eternity…to Christ.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

It's a Mystery

Life is full of mysteries…there are some things we just cannot explain or fully understand.

Such as, how does David Copperfield disappear and reappear? He’s really good at that!  Mysteries like, how did we come up with these two fine presidential candidates?

Mysteries fill our family life on a regular basis…Who broke the van door? Who tore the shower curtain? Who left the milk out? Where did I put my glasses? What is your name? What is MY name? What happened to the white spatula? (it’s been missing since 2005…hmmm that is the year our son was born…perhaps the mystery has been solved).

I enjoy reading and watching mysteries…as long and they are not bloody or gory…that makes me pass out…then I am liable to get stepped on.

Many things in our world can be explained…however, the work that Jesus does in the hearts of people, is an amazing, exciting and powerful mystery.

We see examples in scriptures where God changes the hearts of people…i.e. the Apostle Paul, when he is transformed from a killer of Christians to a disciple maker…likewise, we see powerful examples in our lives and the lives around us.

More than 30 people from Alliance Church witnessed some of these mysteries first hand, when they were able to engage in the stories from Adult and Teen Challenge on July 28th. The changed life stories were incredible!  Hearing how God was taking hearts of stone...and creating in them a heart of flesh.  

At our church this Sunday we will hear of two other mysteries of how God penetrated the hearts of people and does a work on the “inside.”  We will hear their stories, and we will witness an “outward” expression of that “inward” work & we will look at such scriptures as Matthew 3, John 1, and Acts 8.

When we engage in the covenant act of baptism, we engage in the mystery of Christ’s work, a work that He does...inside of us...that is then expressed on the outside.  Baptism is an amazing expression of the evidence of that mystery.