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


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


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


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.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


I remember, as a boy I would look to my parents and see them as people who could do no wrong.  They seemed to know everything!  However, when I turned 13 years old, my parents suddenly appeared to be losing their minds…they became foolish…unknowledgeable…unwise…non-understanding.  Ironically, it was at this same age that a great and marvelous metamorphosis took place in my life.  It was at this time that I unexpectedly became endowed with all kinds of great wisdom and vast knowledge.  This led me to become very concerned for my parent’s well being.  So despite being 20 years younger, I felt that I needed to inform them of all of the important decisions that needed to be made in my life, because my “old” 33 year old parents could no longer undertake the task.  I was forced to train my parents for 6+ years! I tried to teach my parents responsibility in raising children by doing things like leaving the car on empty…eating all of the bread and drinking all of the milk to see if they were even paying attention to what was going on at home…after all…it is a parent’s job to provide for their children…and life is not all about them, am I right?...Hey, I was just helping them out!  When I turned 20…they finally seemed to get it…and they seemed to snap out of their stupor…must have been a phase they were going through…(note: I stole that line…but I couldn’t find a source).
Sadly, I have some memories of my teenage years that I would just as soon forget.  Despite my regret, I must admit…some of the choices of my teenage years…and the regret that followed, shaped me into a better person…hopefully.
I remember one event in particular.  I had a t-shirt that I was particularly fond of, however, I would consider it to be a “near fit.” In other words, it wasn’t too big…and was borderline on being too small…and eating the way I did during these 6+ years the shirt wasn’t going to be getting any bigger any time soon.  So this being the case, I had given specific, demanding instructions to NOT DRY the shirt…it should be air dried…that is NOT too much for a teenager to ask of the laundry workers is it?  Inevitably, the day came when the shirt got dried. I was livid! I went and yelled at my teenage younger sister (yes…there was a day when my parents had 4 teenagers at the same time…it’s no wonder they were going through a phase), for her ignorance in keeping my demands.
It was about 10 minutes later…that my mother came at me in tears and with the shirt in hand…she threw it in my face…and said, “I am the one that dried it you selfish twit!”  Huh, I didn’t see that coming.
I apologized for my behavior.
It’s remarkable to me how a parent can continue to love their teenagers…at least I should say, I find it remarkable how my parents could love me through my teenage years.  How a mother can love her son, when all she receives is criticism and unappreciative solicitations and demands is beyond me.
But that’s love…isn’t it?
We can’t really define it…can we?
There is a remarkable story of love in the Bible.  In the Old Testament book of Hosea, we find the prophet Hosea being asked by God to marry a woman named Gomer.  He does it.  Then we find that Gomer is unfaithful to Hosea.  She goes and gives herself to other men.
What does God do?
God tells Hosea…“Go…take her back…love her again.”
God then goes on to tell us in this book…how he is going to use the love that Hosea shows to his wife…to show us how much he loves us.  He shows us that even though we turn our backs on him…we disrespect him…we criticize him…we worship other things…He still loves us.
In fact, he still pursues us! Get this…Hosea, not only has to go and get Gomer and bring her back…he actually has to buy her back! He pays money to take his unfaithful wife back.  Yet, that is exactly what God does…he has bought us.  Jesus paid the price.  You have been bought for a price! (1 Cor. 6:20).
That…is LOVE!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tree Stand

On Friday, I fell from a tree stand.  I would not recommend this…especially to anyone over forty.  This is the third time I have come down a tree stand at a gravitationally accelerated pace…once in my twenties…once in my thirties, and now hopefully the only time in my forties.  If this happens again in my fifties, I am pretty sure that will be the end of me.  This one was, by far, the most painful…I came down face first and then injured my shoulder.  The good news...nothing was broken…aside from my pride…and breaks in my skin. The bad news…everything takes longer to heal, and I like pain less now, than I did in my twenties and thirties.
When I got home, my wife asked me why it is always me that is the one who is falling from the stand and getting injured and not anyone else… “Just lucky I guess.” That, and the fact I like to attack any task that lies before me.  Although, I have to admit…after I smashed my face on the newly cut oak log below…I had no desire to climb back up and begin to put the tree stand up again.  Truth be told…I was afraid to climb up anywhere over 12 inches high.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to…my younger brother (38) who was with me, willingly took the lead and did all of the climbing.
It’s interesting how our life circumstances affect the way we look at things.  The older I get, and the more I fall from trees, the more apprehensive I find myself to be when climbing to any kind of heights.  We could call it “learning” from life lessons…but I think there is more to it than that.  I noticed that I had a strong desire toward “self preservation” after my fall.
I was reminded of David, when he came to the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, (1 Samuel 17).  A man named Goliath stood between the ranks and called out to the Israelites…shaming them and shaming their God…Yahweh.  All of Israel was afraid.  Somewhere along the line, they had lost their confidence.  They no longer looked at the Lord their God for their strength, their protection or their confidence.  Rather, they found themselves fearful…and looked only to their “self preservation.”
Then, David came onto the scene…with a peculiar confidence…a peculiar perspective that had been forgotten by the Israelites.  We then saw the Lord, use this young peculiar person, to bring back a peculiar perspective to the entire nation of Israel.
What about us?  Are we more concerned with “self preservation?” or are we willing to become a “peculiar person” with a “peculiar perspective”…that transforms others around us into having a “peculiar confidence” in The Amazing God.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


When my oldest daughter, Hannah, was in first grade, her elementary school music class produced the soon to be Broadway hit, It’s a Barnyard Moosical.  With a title like that, you expect nothing short of The Music Man or State Fair caliber production.
Like any great musical, there would be auditions.  In the weeks leading up to the auditions our daughter was beside herself with excitement.  She wanted what any normal aspiring actress would want at age 7…to be a chicken.  Fairies, Princesses…and Fairy Princesses were so “last year”…now only one thing would do…to be the silly, strutting, clucking, giggling…chicken.
Sadly, Murphy’s Law reared his ugly head, and our daughter found herself sick on the day of the auditions and missed the assigning of the parts.  There would be no tryout for her…there would only be resting the role of the chicken stardom, into the hands of destiny.
Later that evening…Hannah was feeling well enough to attend our Wednesday night ministry night (AWANA).  Even as we drove to the church…she couldn’t wait to find her fellow classmates to ask if she was indeed one of the celebrated chickens.
However, it was not to be.  Rather than having all of her first grade dreams come true…she was told that she would not be a chicken…instead, she would be a cow.  There is a slight pause…and Hannah responds, “That’s ok…the cows dance…I like to dance…”
For the rest of the night…Hannah could not stop talking about how excited she was to dance and be a cow.  Even the next morning…she was excited for music class…where she would learn all that the cows would say and do.
After school…she got into the van…and we asked…“So tell us about music…what dance do the cows do?”
Hannah replied…“I’m not a cow…I’m a pig…”
“How do you feel about that?”
“It’s ok…pink is my favorite color.”
What I wouldn’t give to have that kind of perspective when encountering “hardship” after “hardship.”  It’s humbling to recall how a first grader can handle the ups and downs of her complex first grade life...when many times I can’t get outside of myself and gain any true perspective.
In John 11:1-16, Jesus is thrown into the midst of a situation that causes everyone around to him loose perspective.  We would find ourselves in the same boat, I’m sure.  But, Jesus displayed a different perspective.  His good friend Lazarus had died…and where everyone around him saw danger and tragedy…Jesus saw an opportunity for the Glory of God to be revealed.
It makes me wonder, “What am I missing?  What do I need to see…that I am not seeing?  How does my perspective need to change?”
What about you? What do you need to see that perhaps you are not seeing?

Saturday, October 7, 2017


I was asked to coach 5th and 6th grade football for the past two seasons.  Apparently, the only prerequisite to being qualified to coach football at such a grade level, is the fact that you are breathing, have a son who wants to play football and unlike the majority of the other kids’ fathers…you can’t say no…I should have said no.
The extent of my football knowledge is the 1988 Darren Nelson drop, the 1999 Gary Anderson missed field goal, the 2010 Bret Favre interception, and the 2016 Blair Walsh frozen flop.  I really have no business trying to teach anyone how to play football…yet, that is what I agreed to do.  At least they “doubled” my pay this year, compared to last year…yet it is still zero dollars….hmmm?
Football isn’t like baseball (which I would also have no business coaching), when it rains…you still play.  This past Monday, we held our usual scheduled practice…in the rain. By the end of practice, there wasn’t a dry spot on my body…which is remarkable, because I was wearing two raincoats.  Perhaps, I need to invest in either a new raincoat…or at least make myself a suit out of Tyvek house wrap.  Cautiously, I had put my cell phone in my pocket…beneath both raincoats…only to find that somehow water still penetrated through both coats, leaving  my phone sufficiently wet enough to fry it.
That’s a bummer…
Not only do I not get paid for coaching…but apparently I actually have to “pay” for the privilege of coaching screaming, inattentive 5th and 6th graders.
I am humbled to say…that I missed my phone much more than I expected.  I never would have lumped my phone usage in the arena of “needing” a cell phone…I now realize that I was wrong.  As a result of being “cell free,” for just 36 hours, I nearly left our daughter home from school alone, locked the dog up unnecessarily, and missed the pick up my other daughter after Cross Country practice. Do I need a cell phone?...Technically…no…but it kind of feels like I do.  This has caused me to ponder.  What do I need? Do I need a car?...Again, I suppose, technically, no…I would just have to choose not to go to certain places.  Do I need food?...Yes…but not as much as I think I do.  Do I need deodorant?...I say no…Sarah says yes…hmmm…I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.
Do I need Jesus? Yes…I believe that I need him…whether I realize it or not.  In John 10-31-42, Jesus continues to interact with Jewish leaders and other Israelites.  I find in these verses a picture of two groups of people. One group (Jewish leaders), reject Jesus and see no need for him…the other group (other Israelites), believe that Jesus is who he says he is.  Yet both groups have something in common.  They both desperately need Jesus for their salvation…the difference is…some see it and some do not.
My prayer for you is that you will come to see that we ALL desperately need Jesus…whether we think we do or not.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


When my wife and I finally squared away our rental car for our honeymoon, (see blog post 3/4/17 for details), we traveled to our remote destination in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We made wrong turns, detours and near moose collisions along the way.  As we pulled into Conway, New Hampshire at nearly two o’clock in the morning, we were exhausted and on the edge of our first fight, still within the first 48 hours of our blissful marriage.
Unfortunately, Conway is not our destination. We still need to get to Jackson, and we have no idea how to get there…especially since it’s dark…we are tired…Jackson is such a small town…it doesn’t appear on many maps…and of course GPS is not yet available to the general public.
My new bride convinces me to stop and ask for directions…now you know we are close to our first conflict! We find an all night gas station and we pull in to face the humbling “I’m lost…can you tell me how to get to Jackson” music.  I exit the car and Sarah locks the doors from the inside, because after all we don’t know where we are and who knows if there are any rabid moose who know how to use a door handle.
As I approach the station, I feel like I am walking to the principal’s office, after getting caught covering some poor sap’s locker lock with Coppertone.  I approach the acne faced teen at the counter and ask “Can you tell me how to get to Jackson?”
“Jackson who?” he replies…
Well that didn’t work.
After studying a map for a short while…I find what I believe to be the route.  I head back to the car slide the key into the lock…unlock the door and open it…WHOOOP….WHOOOP…WHOOOP!!!
I guess I didn’t realize that the rental car also had a car alarm.  Perhaps I should go ask my teenage friend inside how to turn it off?  However, rather than humble myself again…I get in and drive….WHOOOP…WHOOOP…WHOOOP!!!
About a mile down the road…WEEOOO…WEEOOO…WEOOO….”Hmm…that doesn’t sound like our alarm?”…“Does our alarm have flashing blue and red lights?”  “I don’t think so…” “Apparently the Po-Po behind us does.
I explained the situation as best as I could to the officer…and he kindly pointed me toward Jackson.
Why do they even put security systems on a rental car?...I mean if I rent a car…and it gets stolen…it’s not on me.  That’s why I paid the extra insurance!...that and the fact that they made me pay it.
Insurance…security systems…ways to protect ourselves….
Our culture is obsessed with security…yet, how often do we feel totally “insecure.” Let’s be honest…we are all desperately insecure much of the time.  We try hard to be accepted by people…we protect our feelings…we secure our possessions...yet, insecurity threatens us.
John 10:28-29ngives us an incredible picture of security. Jesus tells the people around him…that if they will just believe in him, they can find security…a perfect security.  In fact, he puts it this way…“NO-ONE, can snatch you out of my hand…NO-ONE, can snatch you out of the father’s hand either.” You can take my car, my possessions, my insurance, my health and even my life…yet, as a believer in Jesus, I am secure in him…forever.  What about you? Do you feel secure? Or do you feel insecure?

Saturday, September 16, 2017


My wife, son and oldest daughter are in the midst of taking their firearms safety course.  I have discovered that my wife is a natural shooter and a regular Annie Oaklie with a firearm!  She puts me to shame…along with many other local sharp shooters…she is good!  Really good!...Who knew?
After years of hunting, I still remember some of the first words of wisdom my dad shared with me in regards to becoming a successful hunter, “Make the first shot count.”
Last year, I blew it.  I could have heeded to his words a little more closely. That wasn’t the first time. I didn’t get a shot at a deer until my second year of hunting.  As I was struggling to stay awake and break apart the boredom of the afternoon, I was suddenly surprised by a nice doe, not 40 yards away.  Quickly, I raised my 30-30 Stevens bolt action…aimed down the iron sights of the barrel and fired at the center of the brown mass…I missed.
My next opportunity wouldn’t come until the following year.  I could hear the deer coming…walking along the trail…crunch…crunch…cra-crunch…crunch…crunch…cra-crunch.  When I see it, I can tell, it has been wounded and is moving slow…real slow…and limping hard.  Again, I raise the rifle…aim down the barrel…ca-blam!...I missed…again.
This pattern continued until I was 17 years old.  This time, I was determined to make it count.  On opening morning, I got my opportunity…this time, when the deer presented itself…I took aim…and fired…blam!...I missed.  BUT!!! The deer didn’t run!...again I fired!!!...missed.  The deer still didn’t run.  I fired again!...MISSED!!!  This time the deer finally moved…but not quickly…I fired one more time…and this time he ran…but he was staggering…I hit him!  I made contact!  I tried to fire one more time…click…out of bullets!  I quickly opened up the chamber…inserted a single round…pulled up and fired one final round…at last…down he went.  The streak was over.
I have come to realize that time is like a bullet. Once it has been fired, you can never call it back or get a second “first shot.”
I could not begin to count the hours of my life that I have wasted.  Time…wasted doing unimportant things…like counting flowers on a wall…that don’t bother me at all…or playing solitaire ‘til dawn with a deck of 51…thank you Statler Brothers for that fine metaphor. 
I don’t think anyone can argue that life is busy.  It’s crazy really.  We have so many things to do…people to meet with, rooms to paint, traveling to visit family, projects to complete, grass to mow, homeschooling the children, children to birth, children to raise, children to discipline, athletic events to attend to, decks to stain, tables to refinish…and this doesn’t include eating and showering…(that is one multi-task that I have not mastered…I think they need to start making bread to be like Captain Crunch…where it doesn’t get soggy in the shower).
There is a parable that Jesus shares in the Gospel of Matthew.  It’s about these 10 bridesmaids, who are waiting for the bridegroom (Jesus).  Half of these bridesmaids are wise…and half are foolish.  The foolish ones do not take the time to do what is important… prepare for the arrival of the bridegroom, (Jesus).
With all of the busyness of life…there is one task that is far more important than ALL others…and that is the preparation of ourselves for the return of the bridegroom…Jesus.
If we are not ready for that…then there will be no second “first shot.”

Saturday, September 9, 2017


It is possible, that I was the meanest and most sadistic older brother a little sister could ever have had.  I internally found great satisfaction to tormenting and controlling my siblings.  Though I was only the second oldest, I grew at a faster rate than my older brother, so I inherited the title of King Brother…self titled…self appointed…and humble too.
If my little brother was sitting where I wanted to sit…I would throw him out of the seat…and take it for myself.  He would scream and attack me with arms flailing…and I would shove him away with my foot to his face or throw him down and sit on him until mom would get fed up with it and yell at me to get off of him.  “What!?...He started it!...He was sitting in the seat that I wanted to sit in!”
My older brother and I didn’t fight as often…I think it had to do with his “ok, whatever” personality.  It was rare that he would speak up and actually challenge me…and when he did…he usually had a big piece of wood in his hands and he’d use it with unfortunate precision.
My sister probably received the worst of it.  I frequently would…”accidentally”…hold her head under water.  Not long enough to do any real damage…just long enough to make her cry…see?...I’m not so bad.  I wouldn’t resort to physical attack with her, like I did with my brothers…rather, for her…it was developing some mental anguish.
I would convince the poor girl that our house was built on a graveyard and that spooky skeletons would come out of the basement and attack her…and then, I would lock her in the basement…the dark basement…of which the light bulbs had been loosened so as not to turn on.  I remember sitting there…holding the basement door tight…listening to her scream and cry on the other side of the door.  After a while, my emotions would get the best of me…and I would laugh.  There was only one way into the basement…and one way out of the basement…and it was through me…I controlled the door!
Wow! I am so sorry sister!!! I was such a jerk.
Fortunately for me…I have a very gracious sister and she now laughs at the stories…and has forgiven me…I think.
In John chapter 10, Jesus shares a metaphor about shepherds.  He says that there are some bad shepherds who have mislead and treated his “sheep”…the Israelites…harshly.  He tells us how they don’t care about the “sheep” at all…instead, they care only for themselves.
Jesus then refers to himself as the “Good Shepherd”…the kind of man who cares for the well being of his sheep…who protects them…loves them.  He then also talks about how we are invited to be his sheep…and that there is ONLY one way to be a part of his “flock”…and it is through him.
I was a BAD brother…like these bad shepherds…and likewise…I was a BAD gatekeeper…
Jesus tells us that he cares for us so much…that he is actually willing to lay down his life for us…his sheep.  Not only is Jesus “willing” to lay down his life…but he actually did it.
He laid down his life.
Instead of holding the door closed…He opened it.
Instead of locking us up in fear and sin…he frees us.
We have a Good Shepherd.
The sheep…just need to listen for his call…and then follow him.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


We took the kids camping this past weekend…for one night only.  We took the kids camping last Labor Day weekend as well…also, for one night only…you would have thought that we would have learned our lesson.  Camping is exhausting!
Here is how our camping works.  We spend 63 minutes loading up the van and trailer.  We take the 18 gallon plastic tote down from the high dusty shelf in the garage, and throw it into the trailer, hoping that everything we need is still inside.  We grab some matches…an ax…bug spray…(if we remember it)…the tent, and sleeping bags.  We pull out of the driveway, certain that we have forgotten something…usually we are right.  This year is no different…fortunately Sam Walton created a store for just such circumstances. We purchase the bug spray inside.
We arrive at the campsite and immediately start setting up camp.  Camp set up consists of me working on the tent…Sarah organizing the bedding…and the children opening all doors to the van in hopes of gathering as many mosquitoes as possible, and keeping the interior van lights lit to add to the adventure and the wonder…will the van start tomorrow?  Last year, we needed a jump start.
When I have the tent ready and Sarah has the bedding set, we begin working on the fire…while the kids dig into the cooler for some pop to drink and spit sunflower seeds all over the picnic table…first rules of survival…shelter…fire…pop and sunflower seeds.
With the fire going, we dig into the hot dogs and beans…roasting them over the fire.  Immediately following, we turn to the marshmallows…we make our s’mores and start a pot for coffee…just in time… for the rain to come.
Quickly, we pack the chairs, food and wood into the van, so as not to get wet and head into the tent that “sleeps five comfortably.”  With the six of us packed into the tent, we decide to play cards. This forces  (about) 40 year olds to sit, in ways that, not only were, (about) 40 year olds not intended to sit, but also in positions that (about) 40 year olds cannot get out of.  We soon discover that our tent is, apparently, not water proof…that’s disappointing…and my coffee still sits over the fire…also disappointing.
Two and a half hours later, the rain appears to have let up, and I have got to get out of the wet tent and out of my “one legged pigeon pose.” We rekindle the fire…and we enjoy a nice mosquito swatting percussion symphony.  Finally, we head to our damp bedding, only to wake up with pruned fingers and soggy socks.
Now we get to pack up…head home…and dry everything out on the line…yell at the children for not helping…all the while, dog tired from not sleeping well in restful bliss of “nature.”
And truth be told…we will probably do it again next year…because somewhere along the line, I have become blind to the work that camping involves, and instead, cling to the enjoyable memories like whining children on a nature hike…crying girls who tripped over the stump…sharing our deepest darkest secrets in a rain soaked tent and family time around the campfire.
Voluntary blindness is interesting.  I think of birthing babies…not that I have ever done it…but I’ve heard it is “challenging.”  I have watched the pain that my wife has endured during the childbirth process and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy…yet, I think mothers become blind to the pain, when they choose to have another child.
In a similar, but rather different, sort of way…I think we live, relatively, blind lives.  I think we are blind to many of the things that we do in our lives that are wrong.  In other words…I think we are frequently blind to our own sin….and even when perhaps we finally realize some of the sin in our lives…we continue to either diminish the same sin or, not even acknowledge that there could be more sin…other sins…in our lives.
In John 9:8-41, Jesus heals a man who is physically blind…and then uses this event to point out how the religious leaders were spiritually blind…what a contrast! I believe, wholeheartedly, that Jesus wants to heal us from our spiritual blindness.  In fact, I believe, that when we can admit to our own spiritual blindness…we will find ourselves yearning for spiritual sight…a spiritual light that can only come from the light of the world…who shines in our darkness…revealing our blindness…revealing a Truth that only Jesus can provide.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


I remember working on my dad’s 1978 Chevy Cheyenne pickup…I am certain that my 7 year old expertise was invaluable to him and that he could not have done the job without me.  I was probably most helpful by keeping his heart rate up as I raised and lowered the jack holding the truck up that he was working on.   Some call it stress…I call it cardiovascular exercise…at least I used to…now I call it a heart attack waiting to happen…(honestly…I doubt that I ever did that…I would put the odds at less than 50%).  We were repairing his front, four wheel drive hub…I remember him needing to go a very specific socket, with four, quarter inch teeth that would protrude from the end.  Without this specific tool…the job was impossible to complete.
This past week, I was driving by our local zoo. I noticed that they were doing some work on the stone walls that border the zoo and the road.  I drive by this zoo nearly every day, yet, I had never noticed it being in disrepair...but I’m not a stonemason, so what do I know.  I observed a crew of men using a very unique tool…it appeared to be a large clamp with large chains and long stakes that they drove into the ground and long levers that were used to pull/hold the wall straight while they worked on it and then left on while their work dried.  This left me curious and wondering about these clamps.  By all appearances…it looked as if these clamps were created for one singular purpose…to straighten and hold stone walls in place.  Then I thought…how often would those tools even be used? They seemed so specific to that singular task.
This got me thinking about my own tools. So much so, that I went and looked through my tool chest trying to find tools that had only one specific purpose.  I couldn’t find much.  I use my tools for all kinds of things that they were never meant to be used for.  In fact, as a child, I remember using my dad’s torque wrench as a hammer to pound a stake into the ground…when that didn’t work I tried using the torque wrench as the stake…dad was not happy.
I have used wrenches as pry bars, screwdrivers as stakes, screwdrivers as pry bars, screwdrivers as chisels, chisels as screwdrivers, pliers as hammer…etc…you get the idea.  One time, when I was working on my own truck, I used a combination of a large wrench, a bottle jack and a sledgehammer to free a rusted bolt.  There is a saying, “The right tool for the job.” …which is all good and well if you are willing to pay top dollar for some of those “right tools”…but for me…I try to get by…some call it cheap…I like to think of it as innovative…after all, look what innovation did for Henry Ford.  Sometimes it feels kind of like playing a round of golf with nothing but a 5 iron in my bag.
There is a story in John 9:1-12 where Jesus comes upon a man who was born blind.  In this culture, the blind man would have been viewed as purposeless.  He couldn’t work…he couldn’t serve…he was disdained as someone who was being punished by God.  Yet, when Jesus sees him, he informs his disciples, who are with him, that it is not sin that has made this man blind…rather, this man was “created” blind…for a very specific purpose.  Jesus tells them that this man was made this way so that Jesus could demonstrate his divinity, his love, his grace, his power, and his own choice to align with the suffering of mankind.  This blind man suffered, and he sat begging at the side of the road for years.  During this time, many people would have acknowledged his life as worthless…yet, Jesus, shows this man the purpose that God had chosen for his life.
Several years ago we took a team of students and leaders to an orphanage Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  This was no ordinary orphanage.  This was an orphanage fill with children who were not only unwanted…but also viewed as worthless…purposeless…valueless in their society.  Many of these children ranging in age from infant to teenager, couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk…couldn’t communicate period.  Some of the children couldn’t see…some couldn’t feed themselves.  Where do we find purpose for people like this?  More and more people in our world see these lives as purposeless.  The notorious Adolf Hitler certainly would not have found any value in their lives.  I have come to find that their lives did have value…and interestingly…perhaps their value has to do with their effect on others, more than themselves.  Sure they can’t feed themselves…sure they can’t care for themselves…but their lives impact others.  Their lives impact the orphanage workers who sacrificially pour themselves into their lives.  The workers lives are different…I would be willing to say better…for having encountered these children.  I know that the team of students and my leaders were also impacted by our contact with these children.  It was extremely challenging…but I cannot help but think of them…when I see how Jesus…notices…and values the lives of those we see as purposeless.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Seven years ago I was asked to officiate a wedding in Grand Marais, Minnesota.  Not knowing the next time we would have the chance to make the five hour drive to experience the grandeur, I decided to bring the entire family up to this gorgeous part of the state.  It is truly a magnificent part of the country…“God’s country.”  The wedding took place on an amazingly, beautiful day in a quaint and cozy chapel just off of the Gun Flint Trail.  Following the ceremony, my wife and I thought it would be nice to enjoy some of the North Shore scenery with the family.
We made sure to make the stop at Gooseberry Falls…Betty’s Pies…Agate Beach…and several other areas of rocky shore.  As we were walking along one particular rocky shore…our son, Isaac, was doing what any four year old boy would do…picking up rocks and chucking them into the largest fresh water lake in the world.  Rock after rock…every fourth step or so…splash, in goes another.
We were not the only ones enjoying these rocky shoals, several other couples and families were out enjoying the lake and the beautiful afternoon.  One family in particular…was a…not super young lady…walking,  what I assumed was her…much less young father.  She helped him along the shores as he clumsily navigated through the thick, rock sand with his walker.  Overall it was impressive, watching him make do in a situation with a walker, that was not created to traverse over such rocky terrain.  Now, had it had big twenty inch, fat tires and, perhaps, basketballs instead of tennis balls…then maybe he’d have something.
We were walking in their direction as they were walking in ours…one step, two steps, three steps, four steps…splash!  One, two, three, four…splash…One, two, three, four…“Eeek” “Ugh” “Ahh” “Smash”…turning back…there  is an old lady and an old man both sprawled out on the shore.  Apparently, one of Isaacs’s stones was heading to the man…in which, his presumed, more able bodied daughter, dove in front of her “walker father” taking the blow and causing both of them to hit the rocks.
As a parent, this is about as mortifying as having one of your children walking up to someone and asking them…”Why are you so fat?” or “Why does skin hang down from your arms like that grandma?”  We did about all we could think of to do as parents of a four year old perpetrator…we apologized profusely…and insisted that Isaac apologize…in which he replied, “NO! WAHHHH” and then… “NO! WAHHH” which then he finally followed with…“NO! WAHHH!”
Do you want to know what is worse than your son chucking rocks at old people?...Your son chucking rocks at old people and then refusing to apologize.
There is a moment in the Scriptures (John 8:1-11), where some Jewish leaders bring a woman before Jesus.  She had been caught committing adultery…that’s when she was with another man who was not her husband…and he was with her instead of his wife…and they are not just holding hands.  The Jews ask Jesus, “Our Law says that we are to stone her…but, what do you say we should do?”  It is at this point that Jesus gives one of my favorite responses of all time…He says something to the effect, “If you don’t have any sin in your life…by all means…start throwing stones at her.”  After Jesus had said this,…everyone…EVERYONE…except Jesus and the woman leave. Then Jesus asks her, “Where are the ones who accused you?”  She replies, “They have all gone.”  Jesus…who happens to be the only one who is without sin…and could technically begin to throw stones…says, “Neither do I condemn you.”
How often do we condemn those who wrong us? Someone makes us upset and we immediately see ourselves in justified to “tear them down.”  We long to take justice into our own hands and hand out the punishments that we feel that people deserve…and maybe they do…but, I think we so easily ignore, our own guilt…our own sin…and certainly…our own need for grace.
May you come to remember your need for grace…and then offer the grace freely…that you have freely received.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fargo Open

Several decades ago, back when M.C. Hammer was “2 Legit 2 Quit,” North Dakota State University would hold an annual freestyle wrestling tournament…The Fargo Open…(imagine that being announced in a very low dramatic echoing voice…sounds cool doesn’t it?).  Growing up around the sport of wrestling, and having had wrestled since first grade, I thought that expanding into the realm of freestyle wrestling would enhance my technique.  This led me to enter the elite competition of the Fargo Open.  The brackets were put together by weight class and limited to somewhere between sixteen to thirty-two wrestlers…honestly I don’t remember…it was over twenty-five years ago, cut me some slack.  My weight class was packed.  In fact, my weight class was so full, the tournament officials had to create two brackets for my weight class.  I was placed into a secondary bracket after the first bracket had been filled.  For years, I have proudly stated how I placed third in this elite tournament, and received the largest trophy in my collection of trophies that I keep proudly displayed in an office box in the attic of my parents’ country home.  What I usually neglect to share, is that this secondary bracket only contained three wrestlers.  After two straight losses, I received the equivalent of a “millennial” participation trophy.
It’s remarkable to me how we pose ourselves in such a way that we attempt to make ourselves look better than we really are.  I read recently online…so it has to be true…how 70% of people, who share personal information and events on social media, intentionally lie, exaggerate or alter their posts in such a way as to make themselves and their families more attractive or appear better than they believe that they really are.  In other words…the 70% are attempting to deceive their readers…and I believe in many cases, they have come to deceive themselves, in such a way, that they believe that their posts are entirely true, or at the very least…justified adjustment.
Why is our culture so afraid of the truth? Everyone lies…why? When you break it down, it really just doesn’t make sense…yet we do it.  In the Gospel of John, chapter 8:31-59, we find a moment when Jesus is talking to a large number of Jewish people.    Jesus accuses them of being “slaves to their sin and darkness.”  This upset these Jewish people…after all…no one really enjoys being called a sinner.  These wacky Jews, tell Jesus…“You’re crazy…we are slaves to no one…” Jesus lays it out before them…that they are deceiving themselves in believing that they are sinless…he tells them to believe in the “truth”…and that the “truth will set them free.”
Lies leave us in bondage.  We are bound to the effects of the deception.  We all lie…we all lie to other people…but often I don’t think we see how we lie to ourselves.  We think we have it all together…we try to convince ourselves of this deception…when Jesus really wants us to say…“You know Jesus…You’re right…I am a sinner…and I need your forgiveness…please forgive me.”  There is the Truth…and that Truth is the Truth that will set you free.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


I delivered pizzas in college…lots of pizzas…it is possible that I may have eaten more pizzas than I delivered.  Minnesota winters can be nasty for pizza drivers.  However, like our U.S. mail service, our motto was, “The pizzas must get through…” except on holidays…like Christmas, Thanksgiving,…birthdays…Columbus Day…Canada Boxing Day…walks with girlfriends or finals week.  I remember getting caught in several snow and ice storms while driving…thus finding myself pushing my ’81, rear wheel drive, Plymouth Grand Fury up a hill, with no traction under the tires…or my shoes, but the pizzas must get through…even if they are cold…or fall on the floor of the car, sliding all the cheese off the top…but hey…they arrived!
Minnesota winters also bring darkness.  Because of the darkness, I often couldn’t see the house numbers let alone read them.  This made it necessary to practically memorize as many house numbers as possible.  After several encounters of attempting to deliver a pizza to the wrong house, I invested in a little flashlight.  It was a Q-beam Maxi-million.  A one million candle power…who just turned on the sun…and every other light inside the house…including the refrigerator…spot light.  This thing could literally light up your life…and the neighborhood.
As I would drive down the delivery street, I would use the Maxi-million to shine from house to house looking for the correct house number.  In the darker neighborhoods, it wasn’t uncommon to see people duck down below their windows, behind curtains, or quickly turn off their lights, at the flash of the spot…pulling their Glocks and flushing their drugs…thinking it was the Po Po.
This light was so bright…and hot…that one time I forgot to turn it off before setting it on my passenger seat.  The light burned a hole in it, and nearly set the car on fire…that is what I call “hot ‘n ready.”
For the most part, this light was used for the forces of good.  However, on one occasion, I did use it for evil…though in my mind…a justified evil.
After finishing up my deliveries, I was driving home and waiting at a stop light…because it was red and that is what you do at red lights.  There were two lanes at the light.  The left lane, which is for turning left or going straight, and a right lane, which is used to turn right…ONLY.  As I am waiting for the light in my 318 V8, posi-traction, full suspension, former Hwy Patrol, Plymouth…a loud and very large Chevy pickup pulls to my right…but does not turn.  It is very apparent that this gentleman intends to use the “right turn only” lane…to go straight and get ahead of me, before his lane ends. After thinking about this for about 3.5 seconds…I decide to not allow this to happen.  So, when the light turned green, we both gunned it.  My Mopar out accelerated him easily…forcing him to hit his brakes and quickly cut in behind me.
In his anger, he pulled up close to my rear bumper and flipped on his bright lights.  At this moment, I decided to introduce him to Maxi-million.  This was naughty…I should have not done this.  However, I have never seen someone back off my bumper as fast as he did that night.
Light is powerful.  Light overpowers ANY darkness.  Light cuts through darkness like a hot knife through butter.
There is a moment, when Jesus is in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Each evening of the feast the Israelites would light huge torches that were on top of 50ft. towers.  The lights were intended to remind the Israelites how God had provided for their people when He led them out of Egypt and through the desert for 40 years.  It is near the end and the pinnacle of the celebration, when Jesus calls out in a loud voice…“I AM the light of the world…anyone who believes in me, will never walk in darkness.”
Are you tired of walking in darkness?  Are you tired of striving and working and feeling like life is going nowhere?  Are you tired of being stuck in sin?  I believe that there is only ONE way to step out of the darkness.  It’s Jesus.  Jesus himself refers to himself as, “that light.” We often like to keep our dark places secret…like that closet or cabinet or drawer, where everything gets shoved to keep it out of sight…and then we close it quickly, so it doesn’t come crashing out on us.  Perhaps it’s time to let Jesus deal with the darkness.  Perhaps it’s time to let Jesus shine his light in your life…and then through your life.
Maybe it’s time to see the light.