Saturday, October 27, 2018


20 years ago, my boss asked me into his office.  “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“I have pizzas that need to be delivered!” I replied.
“Someone else can take them.”
Drat! There is nothing worse than watching “good tipping houses” go to another driver.
As I walk toward his back office, I wonder what the topic of this conversation may be.  “Maybe he knows that I did not scrub under the freezers last night when closing?...Hmmm…uh oh…maybe someone saw me rear end that SUV last week…the lady said, ‘no damage, don’t worry about it…but still.’”
I am scared, so I mentally work to convince myself that I have been doing a good job.  Why just last week I had one customer give me an extra $1 tip!
I remember pulling into his long pot holed dirt driveway.  Deep puddles of standing water pock marked his drive like Swiss cheese.  Bikes, toy trucks, headless dolls and other unidentifiable relics lined the worn path that led up to the concrete steps…four steps in total.  There was a large German shepherd pretending to sleep near the base of the steps.  I could see a collar and a thin piece of twine which I hoped was attached…and strong enough to hold him back.
I pulled into the drive and parked my 1981 Plymouth Grand Fury and slipped out of the driver’s side window…(because just like my 1974 Nova of the past…the driver’s side door did not work…well technically it did work…but in order to close it, you would have to lay down on the pavement and kick the door upward as you slammed it closed with your feet…this technique is not conducive to efficient delivery service).  With the pizza bag in one hand and the receipt in the other I ran through the gauntlet, jumping over puddles left and right, dodging bikes, trucks and little Suzy’s psycho spooky headless doll.  Judging the length of the “leash,” I swung wide to the left, just as Fido ended his sleepless façade and attacked.  I leapt to the top of the entire flight of steps as the shepherd bared his pork chop stained teeth and got his neck jerked back. I simultaneously knocked on the door and rang the doorbell. (To do both ensures a higher likelihood of being noticed the first time).
A bearded gentleman opened the door…we make the exchange…he says, “Thanks,” I say “Thanks,” then he says…”here is an extra dollar for your performance.”
My boss, Jerry, sits me down and says, “Ryan, what is going on with your car door?”
“Huh?...What do you mean?”
“Why do you keep climbing in and out of the window?”
“It’s faster?”
“I must say…that you get in and out of your car window than my other drivers do through their door…however, I can’t have one of my pizza drivers…wearing a Pizza Hut uniform…and having the Pizza Hut logo on top of the car…using the window as a porthole.  This is not Hazard County…you need to get the car door fixed or you can’t deliver anymore.”
I parked the car at my Dad’s place and began driving a Toyota Celica that burned more oil than it did gasoline…but at least the doors worked.
Shakkah is taking a position of submission.  It is translated to worship in English. It is acknowledging someone or something greater than oneself.  My boss Jerry was in a position to be honored and so…despite the challenge that it would make in my life…I honored him…all be it…I did it reluctantly.  The Old Testament is filled with stories of Shakkah.  Stories like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3.  These three men treat their king with honor…all though when they are asked to treat their king higher than God almighty, that is where they draw the line.  Shakkah is honoring that which is honorable.  Is there anyone more deserving of our honor…than God almighty?  Shakkah should be given to almighty God when life is both easy…and difficult.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


My son has begun the art of skateboarding.  It pains me to watch him.  He is continually smashing his body on the concrete drive way and bruising his shins with the flying board.  I think it is time for him to invest in a helmet, gloves, elbow pads, shin guards, knee pads and steel toed boots.  Safety first…agility second.
The nearest I have come to skate boarding in recent years was accidentally stepping on a mass of acorns with my platform size 12 feet and nearly landing on my derriere in the church parking lot.  Prior to my near death by acorns, I recall minimal skateboard experience, as a child, visiting my grandmother’s house.  She owned a skateboard…though I don’t think she ever spent her time “grinding the rails.”  I never saw her “pop shuvit” or “tweak” a “wheelbite,” and though she was “sick” at times…I don’t think it was in a “good” way. (Truth: I had to look up the skateboard lingo).
While visiting my grandmother, my older brother and I would spend hours on that skateboard.  We would take turns going up and down the side walk from one end of the block to the other.  He was 5 and I was 4 years old.  We both had the same technique…we would drop our right knee down on the board…grip both sides of the board and start kicking with the left foot.  This worked fine…for a while…until we realized that we could go faster if one of us put both knees on the board while the other one ran and pushed from behind.
Clickety clack, clickety clack, over the sidewalk seems.  The speed was exhilarating.  I’ll bet there were times when we hit 5 miles an hour or more! Clickety clack, clickety clack, clickety clop, smack…flap…whack!…the front wheels of the board caught on the uneven seem of the sidewalk and my brother flew forward off the board landing face first in a position of “shakkah” on the now bloody sidewalk.  He turned his crying eyes towards me and I saw his bloody face…and his missing tooth. He lived…though it took a couple of years for his adult tooth to fill in the gap.
Shakkah is a Hebrew word and it is used often in the Old Testament.  Shakkah always refers to bowing down before someone or something.  It is this word that is translated into “worship” in the English language versions of the Bible.
When we think of worship, I believe that we too often base it on things like, feelings…an experience…or music…and often perhaps something that we must “like” or “enjoy” or it isn’t “good.”  There is a problem with this concept.  Worship in the Bible is a choice.  We choose to worship.  We choose to bow down.  We choose to attribute worth to the One who is worthy.
When we see worship take place in the Bible…the person worshiping is taking a “position.” That person is choosing to acknowledge the greatness of a certain someone or something…that is deemed greater than him or herself.  It is an act…a choice of honoring.
What do we worship? Sometimes I think we worship God.  Sometimes I think we worship sports.  Sometimes I think we worship our cars…or our families.  Sometimes we worship the created…rather than the creator.
What do we bow to?  We worship whatever we bow to. I think it is time that we acknowledge that to “worship,” is our choice to make, and what we worship is our choice.  I pray that we can begin to make the right choice.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Exploding Star

My first car was a 1974 Chevy Nova. Perhaps a better statement may be…my first mode of transportation was a 1974 Chevy Nova.  I don’t know how much of a “car” needs to be intact to still be considered a “car,” but I would estimate that this vehicle may have been missing up to 33% of its factory metal.  I recall spending Friday and Saturday nights cruising the main drag in Wadena, Minnesota.

Cruising the main drag, consisted of going back and forth…and back and forth…and back and forth…from one end of town to the other…circling Hardees on one end and Super Value on the other.  Why?…because…what else was there to do? Movies cost money…and gas was free!...Well in 1994, at least, it was less than $1 a gallon.  I recall one night, during this weekend ritual, when one of the local law enforcement officers pulled me over.
He stepped out of his vehicle and walked to my window…which I cranked down…but not too far, because I may not be able to make it go back up.
He looked down at me through the open window and yelled, “Do you know why I stopped you tonight?”
“Is it my broken headlight?” I hollered back at him!
“Is it the loud exhaust?” I shouted.
“Is it the missing tail light?” I bellowed.
“Not that either”
He didn’t know about my non-functioning driver side door…yet…nor was he aware that I had to start the car from under the hood…and avoid the spraying antifreeze while doing so.
“I have no idea!”
“Why don’t you turn off the engine and join me in the cruiser so we can hear each other!?”
“Turn off the car!”
I turned off the car. As he turned his back to walk back to his squad car, I snuck out the passenger side door, so as not to raise more suspicion than necessary about the broken door by climbing out the window.  I sat next to him in his warm, quiet car and he told me that he stopped me for “over accelerating” at the last intersection.
“I should write you up for over accelerating…but, I am not going to do that. In fact, I am not going to write you up for anything.”
“Sweet!  I am off the hook,” I thought.
“I am, however, going to warn you. If I ever see this vehicle in town again, without these things fixed…I will have the car towed.”
“Yes sir.”
I was dismissed.  I walked back to my car…opened the passenger side door…with him watching…got in…crawled across to the driver seat and waited for him to leave.  Then, I slid back across to the passenger side…got back out of my car…took the pliers that I kept on the dash…popped the hood…reached in…and started the car off of the solenoid.
That car needed some serious work.  But then again, so do I…and so do you…and as we find in the Gospel of John chapter 21…so did Peter.
My dad and I have regularly enjoyed attending car shows together.  It is remarkable and beautiful to see what some of these craftsmen have done to restore these classic automobiles.  On a few occasions, I have even come across fully restored 1974 Novas.  It is not a terribly collectible car, but when I look at the restored version, verses the one I owned in high school, it is an amazing contrast.  I think that my Nova was in no way worth restoring.  It was so dilapidated…and broken…and rusty…that it just wouldn’t have been worth it.
I am thankful, however, that Jesus does NOT look at me in the same way…nor does he look at you in the same way…nor did he look at Peter in the same way.  In the John account, we find Jesus working in a very broken Simon Peter.  Jesus does not condemn him…He does not say, “Sorry Peter, you blew it…you are too broken…it’s just not worth it…you are not worth it.” Rather, Jesus calls Peter, once again, to “Follow Me!”
Jesus sees us as worth restoring…that is amazing!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Pick Up Your Toys or They are Going in the Trash

The December night was cold and dark.  There was snow on the ground, and clutter all over the living room floor.  I cannot remember how many times I had asked my children to clean up their mess that carpeted our carpet.
The nightly sequence was predictable.  If I would use my exasperated authoritative dad voice…(which happens to be the same voice that Gandalf uses against the Balrog...“You Shall Not Pass!!!”)…my children would hop to it and clean up…one item, and then selective blindness would convince them that the room was clean and the job was finished.
“Open your eyes! Do you not see all of your toys that are still lying around!?”
“Oh, we didn’t see that!”
After more than 70 minutes of continuing to point out other things that had been missed, I decided to end this.  I pulled out the kitchen garbage can and began to throw the toys away, which primarily included a Little People Christmas nativity set.  I threw it away...and when I did, the kids began to scream and wail at the loss of their beloved toys.  I threw away the donkeys.  I threw away the lambs.  As I dropped each member of the nativity into the trash…the screams grew.  I threw away the crèche... “Scream!”  I threw away the camels and the wise men…“Wail!”  Mary and Joseph were tossed in along with the manger... “Scream!”  I threw away the angel…and Baby Jesus!  What is wrong with me!? Who throws Baby Jesus into the trash!
There is a saying…“The apple does not fall far from the tree.”  I recall I time when I watched as my dad threw all of my sisters toys into a trash bag after she had also refused to clean her room.  He threatened, “We will find someone who will take care of these toys and give them to her!.”
To which my sister replied, “Maybe you could give my Barbies to Emily. She might like them!”
Hmmm…I don’t think that was the reaction my dad was looking for.
While my children continued their screaming, I looked down into the trash that held Baby Jesus and the angel and the donkey and the rest of the set.  I didn’t want to throw them away…but in my stress and frustration I overreacted.  My children deserved to have their toys thrown away.  They probably still do! My children needed to learn a lesson.  Yet, deep in my soul I knew the lesson that they needed to learn was not a lesson of rules…rather, it was a lesson of grace.
I called my children close to me and I said to them, “You have not been listening to me…you have not been obeying what I have been asking you to do…you deserve to have me throw these toys away. But, I also don’t deserve the love and forgiveness of Jesus and yet he gives it to me.  So, though you don’t deserve this, I am giving you back your toys as a picture of grace. Every time you play with these toys I want you to remember the grace of Jesus Christ.”
Each year we still get out the Little People nativity set out of the attic and we set it up. Though my kids no longer play with them, they remember that night…when Dad threw away Baby Jesus...and I hope that they also remember…the grace of Jesus Christ!