Saturday, March 9, 2019


Fire


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

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

He stopped asking…but kept jumping.

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

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

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

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

“Awesome!...that’s so perfect!”

Fires are dangerous!

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

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

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

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

“Pancakes are ready!”

“I think I will have toast.”

“Actually…about the toaster…”

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Far From Home


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

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

“Ok, Dad, I won’t”

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

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

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

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

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

“Wisconsin!”

“Ikea!”

“Upstairs!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Are we there yet?”

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

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

Saturday, February 23, 2019


The Eyes Have It


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 16, 2019


Empty Handed


I pulled in and parked the truck.  I eased my orange vest onto my shoulders as I slid out of the pickup and stepped into the soft mud of the forest floor.  I filled my vest with shotgun shells and slipped my side by side out of its case. I flipped my hat on my head and gave an “Elmer Fudd” chortle. 
The rains had recently subsided and the ditches ran with a swift current.  I waded through the ankle deep water in my non-waterproof boots and began my pursuit of the elusive woodland ruffed grouse.  One by one, I targeted all of my favorite hot spots.  I slithered up to the fallen tree next to the swamp…slowly…slowly…fully ready for the explosion of wings blowing up before me…Nothing.

I worked my way around the swamp, through the thickest brush and aspens.  Occasionally, I would trip and nearly fall…saving myself from a face plant in the mud with a face plant into a poplar tree. It was worth it if it salvaged the soiling of my firearm and mud on my face.  Grouse are so tender and delicious you don’t need teeth to eat them anyway.

As I finished my trip around the pond…still nothing.

I turned eastward and entered more dense foliage.  I still had a few productive locations to pursue.  I checked the thick edge of the hummock. Nothing.  I walked around the aspen encircled puddle of water. Nothing.

After three hours of pounding the brush, I sat down…muddy…bloody…and exhausted.  “That’s it…I’m finished,” I said to myself.

As I stood and turned to head back out, a bird suddenly exploded in front of me.  I quickly brought the coach gun to my shoulder and pulled the trigger…click…click. Six squirrels immediately chattered their amusement in my direction.

There I stood, dumbfounded.  I had just spent more than three hours trudging through swamps, brush and thorns.  I had been whipped in the face with branches…tripped by logs…laughed at by squirrels, and when my one opportunity came for a bird, all I had to offer was an empty gun.
In all of my excitement, I had forgotten to load my gun!

I am reminded of 1 Cor. 13, in which Paul talks about all of these wonderful gifts of the Spirit…yet these gifts are meaningless if there is no LOVE.  There I stood…with all the tools available to make a successful bird hunt…yet, without a loaded firearm…I had NOTHING.  The birds could have had tracking devices on them for all I was concerned…but without a loaded gun…I didn’t have a chance.
I hope that we can all come to see…that even the most wonderful gifts…abilities…talents…etc…are all NOTHING…if they are not driven by a LOVE for God…and a LOVE for people.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


Charismata


I have been accused of being cheap, stingy, fugal, prudent, economical, thrifty, abstemious, tight, miserly, and even penny-pinching…mostly by my parents…and my children…and anyone else who has known me for more than 2 ½ weeks. People tend to exaggerate.

“Dad can we go to the Dairy Queen?”

“Sure kids!”

“Yay!!!”

“Hello Miss…yes I would like one Dilly Bar…oh and could I get a knife and four sticks…I’d like to divide it up for my four children.”

I have been known to negotiate the price of such items as cars, Legos, bicycles, coffee, pizza, mirrors, tires, a globe, a skateboard, shoes…really…pretty much anything.

On one such occasion, I was able to get Walmart to take an extra $75 off of an edge trimmer.  On another opportunity, I purchased a Carhart coat, where I walked out of the store $5 richer than when I entered, and I once successfully negotiated the price of a bicycle from costing $75 to where the seller was offering to pay me $75 just to take it.

“You have no pride!” Sarah has told me on more than one occasion…one being as I stood at the Cabelas’ customer service counter while the associate handed me a brand new Leatherman in which I paid a total of $0.

It’s not that I don’t want to be generous…it’s more that I would rather give as much as I can…while spending as little as possible.

There are three secrets to my successful negotiations. First, you have to be willing to ask. Second, you have to be willing to beg.  Third, you have to be willing to walk away.  Craigslist is a dangerous place for people like me.  You find people practically begging for you to offer them insultingly low prices…and then asking if they would deliver it to you.

This past Christmas, I found a treasure.  My oldest daughter is a flautist and she longed for a new flute.  I could be considered a musical newt…so when I discovered she wanted a new flute I was like, 
“What!? That’s silly!... You have a flute...a flute is a flute!”

“You’re a musical newt!” Sarah said…(not really…I paraphrased what I am pretty sure she was thinking), “She wants an ‘open holed’ flute…they are different…to advance to the next level, she would need an open holed flute.”

I stared at her for a long moment, until I came up with a snappy come back… “Oh,” I said.

I quickly turned to Craigslist and was quickly left with my jaw gaping at the asking prices of these instruments.  Shouldn’t an “open holed” flute be less money, since there is actually “less” metal used in the flute?  Apparently the rest of the world does not see eye to eye with me on this issue.
For the next several months, I continually scanned Craigslist, looking for a great deal.  Finally, one came through that had some potential.  Comparatively, as to what I had been encountering…this person was asking about 75% less than they could have been asking.  It was a steal!

I acted quickly…scheduled a meeting to make the exchange…and then proceeded to offer even less than what was being asked. “You must be mad! You are already getting this at an incredible price!”

“I know…sorry…ok…how about just $50 less?”

Silence...

Silence...

“Fine…$20 less,” she said.

“Sold!”

It was an exorbitant gift…yet, it was worth every penny as I watch my oldest daughter’s shock as she opened the flute.  She never expected such a gift. It was a gift of grace.  I couldn’t help but imagine the joy that God must feel when he gifts us such generous gifts.  The word for these gifts in the New Testament is “charismata.” The word literally means, “gift of grace.”

Those of us who believe in Jesus, have been given the gift of grace…in salvation…but then also in gifts of grace from the Spirit.  The Spirit gives gifts that are all…and totally…undeserved.  We have done nothing to earn these gifts…yet, as in salvation and forgiveness…they are given freely.
Now my daughter is using her gift…and it is beautiful! The rest of my children received “different” gifts this past Christmas…no one else got a flute.

That’s the way it is with God…1 Cor. 12:11, says that the Spirit gives to us gifts…each is different…but He gives as He sees best…and He gives generously…to point to who He is…His character…His love…they are His gifts…to us.

Then…we use them.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


Not as Intended


“It will be fine!...it’s just an air soft gun.”

“I don’t like it…they look like real guns.”

“They have an orange tip on the end of the barrel.”

“I still don’t like it”

“It can help him learn how to properly handle firearms”

“But it’s not a real gun”

“Exactly!...now you are getting it…plus…what is the worst that can happen?”

“He could shoot his eye out”

“That rarely happens…plus…that was a Red Rider bb gun.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Metal balls…vs. plastic balls…plastic balls bounce off the skin, leaving painful welts, while metal balls can embed into the skin.”

“Do you remember the Nerf gun?”

“Yeah…but he can’t put pins out the end of the plastic balls like he could with the Nerf darts”

“That cat could have died!”

“But it didn’t…plus…it would have done the neighborhood a favor…”

“What about the toy bow and arrow”

“Same thing…there is no suction cup to take off of the plastic balls…and it’s not like he can sharpen the end of a plastic ball, and even if he did…it wouldn’t shoot straight.”

“If that arrow had been any closer to her head…”

“I know, I know…Carissa would now have three nostrils…”

“What about the lightsaber?”

“There is no such thing as a “real lightsaber…so it’s not like he really could have cut his sister in half”

Over the years we have had many wonderful toys pass through the confines of our humble home.  Most of these toys were gifts.  Gifts like Nerf guns, bows and arrows, lightsabers, baby dolls, old maid cards, bean bags, and more and more and more.  All of the afore mentioned gifts…and many more unmentioned…have been abused…and in some cases used to cause abuse to other members of the family.

I remember a Godzilla toy I had as a child.  This Godzilla creature had the habit of ripping off my sisters Barbie Doll heads.  Likewise, GI Joe was no innocent bystander…he and his infantry would scale the walls of the Barbie Dream House and attack all occupants…Barbies…Kens….and Skippers.  Nothing was left standing…except a baby sister screaming at GI Joe’s occipital master.  It didn’t really bother me…in fact…secretly; I relished my sister’s pain.

The Church has been given amazing gifts and empowerments from the Holy Spirit. Yet, I fear that at times these gifts from the Spirit have been abused.  We have focused these gifts upon ourselves rather than on building up the church.  We have demanded the use of gifts in ways that are not ours to demand.  We have promised gifts to be given, which are not ours to promise to give.

The bottom line is what we find in 1 Corinthians 12:11, the Holy Spirits gives the gifts…as He chooses…when He chooses…for why He chooses.  We are to accept these gifts as gifts of grace…to be used to express God’s grace…and to build up the church.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Mr. Roboto


I just finished attending a 5th grade band concert.  5th grade band instructors are amazing people.  I would assume that many 5th grade band instructors must have the patience of Mother Theresa, the love for music like Mozart, and perhaps the auditory system of a rattle snake.  It is a good thing that these 5th grade band concerts are held in late January…as opposed to the Minnesota goose season…otherwise someone might get hurt! I remember my own first encounter with a band instrument.

The year was 1983…and this might have been THE defining moment in my music career.  Mrs. Shoemate, the elementary music teacher, came into my 3rd grade classroom and announced that the Wadena Elementary School would be hosting a school wide talent show, and that each class would have an opportunity to “tryout.”  My friend Jeremy and I knew that this was our moment.  Just as in the story of Esther…I had been placed into this school…this grade…this classroom…for just such a time as this.  Jeremy and I approached the audition with a reasonable amount of experience on our side.  We both had worn out our cassette tapes of Michael Jackson’s Beat It…and since “video” had already “killed the radio star,” we watched Michael flash that white glove in the air as he moon walked across the stage and lit his hair on fire with a flaming Pepsi sign.  Jeremy and I knew that we, too, could be stars. 

With many of our friends playing the piano…dancing…or singing…we decided to go with something a little more cutting edge.  Thus, it was decided to perform a drum feature to Mr. Roboto, by Styx.  Mrs. Shoemate had given us free reign to anything in her music office.  So on the day of the audition, we climbed to the top of the wall of shelving and pulled down two tom drums buried beneath a myriad of tambourines, bells, sticks, bongos, triangles, ukuleles, guitars, and one electric piano.   

Mrs. Shoemate did a remarkable job hiding her excitement as Jeremy and I walked into the classroom …carrying these two dusty drums. I can only imagine how pleased she must have been to rediscover these hidden gems that had probably been thought lost.  The serious look on her face betrayed her great anticipation of the raw talent that she soon expected to encounter.

“Where did you find those?” she asked.

“On the top shelf…under a bunch of old instruments and junk.”

“What did you do with all of the stuff on top?”

“We left it out on your desk and on the floor…we wanted you t be able to put it away and organize it better this time…then, maybe these drums won’t get lost under the rubble again!”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”  Jeremy and I were always doing helpful things like that for our teachers.

Jeremy and I pressed play on our “boombox” and the portable tape player came to life with the mystical intro to Mr. Roboto… “Domo arigato misuta Robotto”....With one hand in a white glove…we pounded on the drums…BOOM BA BOOM BOOM BA BOOM…

Rhythm is not as important as style…enthusiasm…and white gloves.

Mrs. Shoemate was awestruck! So as not to show favoritism toward us…she stopped us just before the third, “Secret, secret, I’ve got a secret.” When you encounter raw talent…you don’t even need to hear the whole song…sometimes…not even the first verse.

To keep the rest of the class from feeling badly or less talented about their own comparative performances…Mrs. Shoemate shielded her eyes with her hands, rubbed her temples and pretended to have a headache. 

“Thank you boys…that will be enough”

Jeremy and I were not chosen for the talent show…Mrs. Shoemate must have really wanted to boost some of the other students’ confidence.

In 7th grade, I prospected into another opportunity to express my talents.  I tried out for the Jr. High band.  My performance quickly brought Mr. Lindlief to tears. My 7th grade band career lasted for one day.  I tried to gently express to Mr. Lindlief that I didn’t want my raw talent to be a distraction from the rest of the band…so I thought it best to allow him to lead the band at their “own” speed and skill level.  Mr. Lindlief, attempted to hide his disappointment, but I could see right through that big fake smile and pretend sigh of relief.

By the grace of God, I have learned to play the guitar…without bringing people to tears any longer…perhaps just an occasional cringe.  I think that the church is a bit like a band.  When we choose to follow Christ…we are given an instrument.  It is a gift…graciously given…we do not deserve it…but God gives it anyway. 

We are not given the gift, just to have it or hang it on our walls…we are given the gift to play it.  How silly would it be for a member in the band…to sit there with their clarinet, or tuba, or flute, or what have you…and not play it.  That wouldn’t make sense.  Yet sometimes I think we are afraid to begin playing our gift.  We are afraid that we are not “good enough” to play with the band yet, but that is not up to us. 

Every year the Little Falls Community Schools host a Massed Band Concert.  It is at this concert that every band…from 5th grade up to Seniors in High School, combine to play a song.  It doesn’t matter if you are new with your instrument…or have been playing it for 6 years…you play together…each one using their own “gift.”

I think it is time…for the church…to begin using our instruments.  Though each of our instruments are different…we are called to play the same song…together…the song of the Gospel of Christ.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Shotgun


Atop of our kitchen cabinets, there sits, roughly, a dozen pieces of pottery, including vases, bowls, platters, tea cups and a tea pot.  There were a number of years where my wife, Sarah, would go to the annual Little Falls Arts and Craft Fair.  Each time that she went, she would purchase some pottery pieces from one vendor in particular.  Peter Potter, (yes…believe it or not that is his real name…kind of like Dave “Clutter” on the traffic report…or Sonny Day with the weather).  He is very good at what he does and is considered quite the craftsman.

I tried “throwing” a pot in Jr. High…I misunderstood my art teachers instructions…she seemed rather upset. Apparently throwing a pot means something different to artists…what was the big deal…there were already plenty of holes in the old plaster walls.  As a consequence, I was required to clean the gray clay off of the wall…and the side of her face.  She probably laughs about it now…at least I hope she does.

These purchased pieces of particularly perfect Peter Potter pottery perched on top of our kitchen cabinetry, seldom ever get used.  The rare occasions, when they do get put to good use, usually occur when my sister comes to visit and pulls them down to help serve the potatoes and stuffing at Easter.  Otherwise…they are primarily for decoration…but they look nice!

About twelve years ago, Sarah surprised me by ordering a shotgun for me as a Christmas gift.  I had been salivating over this Brazilian made side by side coach gun for years! Hunting is by far one of my top 100 hobbies and I could not wait to use it. The firearm was on back order and didn’t arrive until spring.  The following fall I took it out nearly every weekend and chased grouse around the woods…and managed to kill a few trees.

Finally, one Saturday morning, as I readied myself to pound the brush for birds…I placed my bomber hat on my head, slid into my hunting coat and vest…and stood facing the mirror and did my best Elmer Fudd impersonation…she said, “You have been doing a lot of hunting.”

“Yes! I have…I love using my new shotgun!”

“Well…I guess I didn’t realize that when I gave you the shotgun…that you would actually be “using” it…I thought you just “wanted” it.”

“Why else would I “want” it?”

“I don’t know…my dad has all kinds of guns that he never shoots.”

In Romans 12, we find the Apostle Paul list some “gifts” that are given by the Holy Spirit, gifts such as; leadership, encouragement, mercy, giving and more.  Not only does Paul “list” the gifts…he says that we are to “use” the gifts, "...if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."

What the Holy Spirit gives to believers, ought to be used...and not just to set on the shelf to collect dust.  

I am thankful for people, like my sister, who help us to use what would otherwise collect dust.

What should you be using?

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Cast Iron


A few weeks ago, I seasoned some new cast iron frying pans.  Sarah had received them for her birthday about 6 months ago and they have been moved from place to place around the house, so as to keep them “out of the way.”  You know how it is, when the family room is full of toys?  You can’t walk through the room without stepping on a Lego with a bare foot and screaming a soprano, “Owie, owie, owie…I have been impaled by a miniature building block!” Thus, in order to get things “out of the way,” you cram all of the toys into the hall closet.  There…now it is out of the way…until you need to open the closet…then suddenly…there is a vast array of items that become “in the way.”

These pans became “in the way,” next to my bed for a couple of month, until I had stubbed all 10 toes evenly…then it was time to get them OUT of the way.  Before I could put them away…where they belonged…they needed to be seasoned…so that they could be used.

I turned to Youtube.  I began searching for a video of how to season cast iron pans.  After being distracted, John Crist videos, top NFL plays, and guitar playing techniques…I found Martha Stewart demonstrating how to season a cast iron pan.  

I followed Martha’s instructions…heated the oven…greased the pans…inside and out.  I placed the pans into the oven and set the timer.  A short time later the house was filled with a haze and what Sarah was insisting as a “toxic odor.”  Apparently, we should have invested in some respirators before beginning this project.  If I ever make my own Youtube video of how to season cast iron pans…I will include this small detail. 

We suffered though the evening…and even the overnight hours…and thankfully STILL woke up…although our voices were hoarse and scratchy.  The suffering odor lingered for a couple of days…and even longer when we would use either the oven…or the pans.

Today I am happy to say that our suffering is over…at least in regards to the frying pans.
The Bible is filled with stories of suffering…especially in the New Testament.  In fact, you can find an expression of suffering…and a call to follow suit in every New Testament book!

In 1 Peter 4, we find this expressed clearly.  Here, Peter says that we are to “Serve” the Lord…by taking on the same mindset of Christ.  Serving the Lord is difficult.  In fact, the original Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for serving is the same word that would be used to refer to “cultivating” the ground as a farmer would.  It is work…and with that work…is hardship…suffering.  We are to serve the Lord…by suffering the way that Christ suffered.  That doesn’t exactly sound like my “Best life now!” It sounds difficult.  However, when we suffer for the cause of Christ…we can be confident in this...we must be doing something right if Satan sees us worthy to persecute.  Thus…I will proclaim the name of Jesus…even in the midst of suffering.  Then, I can say confidently…my best life is yet to come!  With Him forever!

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Skipping Stones


I stepped into my son’s room this past May, and I observed a stone sitting on his dresser. A week later, the stone was still there.  In fact, the stone remained on his dresser until June, when I finally asked him, “What is the deal with this rock on your dresser?”

“I found it…I have been saving it.”

“Where did you find it?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Really!? What are you saving it for?

“I have been saving it to take it up to the cabin…so I can skip it.”

Our trip to northern Minnesota was in early August.  Before we left, I was sweeping though the house, turning off all of the lights that had been left on.  As I came to his room to turn off his light, I saw his stone.  I picked it up and slid it into my pocket…and then we left.

“Did you remember your stone?” I asked, as we began driving.

“Oh, man!...No I forgot it!”

“Well good thing for you…I remembered!” I must be an amazing father…or perhaps just as simple minded as he.

He planned on skipping the stone on the first really calm evening of our week’s vacation at the cabin. It was perhaps the second evening of the week that appeared to meet all of the criteria.

After saving a stone like this for so long…and for such a specific purpose, it only seemed reasonable to record it.  We pulled out the iPhone to forever embed this pivotal moment of a 12 year old boy’s journey to…more boyhood.  After a brief introduction as to where the stone was found…how long it had been saved…and the current intention of skipping the “perfect” rock…the time came.  My son wound up…launched the stone…which skipped once…twice…and flipped…and sunk 10 feet away.  Game over.

That was anticlimactic.

Two days later I was braving the water as I slowly edged into the water deeper and deeper.  I am not the “dash and splash” kind of guy. I torturously inch in…step by step…allowing the icy water to painfully cut into my tender white flesh.  The cold water was just reaching my navel when I looked down to see a stone near my feet.  I couldn’t reach down to pick it up with my hands…that would get my chest and arms miserably wet.  Instead, I reached and grasped the stone with my foot…I happen to have exceptional toe dexterity.  I pulled the stone out of the water…and wouldn’t you know…it was the same stone that my son had saved for all of those months…and failed to skip successfully. 

“Isaac! I found your stone!”

“Seriously!? How did you do that?”

“Either I am amazing or just lucky”

“I am going to go with lucky.”

“Fair enough”

During the Jewish New Year…Rosh Hashanah…there is a tradition.  This tradition includes taking some time to solemnly reflect on the previous year.  It is intended that this reflection will reveal areas in your life where you fell short…messed up…sinned.  Upon the completion of the reflection…a person would stand next to a body of water…bend over…pick up a stone…and throw the stone out as far as they could into the water.  This would symbolize the “new mercy” that was offered by God.  It reflected their desire to be different for the upcoming year. 

How often have we wanted to take our mistakes and launch them into the sea…to never deal with them again…only to find that somehow they come back…still plaguing us.  We think we have rid ourselves of sins only to find them once again, sitting in our hand, needing to be thrown out again.  It’s the story of our lives…like a hamster on an exercise wheel.  Is it hopeless?

No.

Two comforts come to mind.  Hebrews 8:12 says, “God will forgive us of our sins…and remember them no more,” and Revelation 21:4, “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes…and there will be no more death and dying, crying or pain…the old way has passed away…and the new has come.”

On the final night of our vacation, we tried again.  Again, this one was recorded as well.  This next attempt was a glorious success.  The stone flew from his hand and glided across the surface of the water, coming to rest some fifty plus feet away…there was no way I would find this stone again.
As you begin this New Year…may you find a time to reflect.  May you come to see your own transgressions…and repent as necessary.  Yet, may you also come to see that Jesus has atoned for our sins…and he has cast them out so far…that not even he remembers them.