Saturday, June 15, 2019


Noise


Pedal-click-creak…pedal-click-creak…pedal-click-creak…

I find bicycle noise quite irritating.  In fact, there are times when I will deliberately use ear buds and music to block out annoying bicycle noises…particularly, when I cannot find the source of the noise.  The obnoxious noise continued as I continued to navigate the bi-ped. This specific noise had been my bane for weeks if not months.  Every time I pump a pedal, the click and creak would resonate through my ears and whole body.  In my efforts to eliminate the sound, I had tightened my chainring bolts, replaced the chainring, tightened the cassette, secured the steer tube, lubricated the chain, tightened my hubs, cleaned and re-secured the steer tube, replaced the brakes, greased and tightened the pedals, I even went so far as to replace the bottom bracket…nothing eliminated the racket.

Every time I saddled up and rode, I would find myself listening carefully trying to identify the source of the clamor.   At one point I was bending my head down…listening intently…looking down at my chain…cassette…hubs…etc…trying to find any indicator of the cause.  When BAM…a parked car jumped right out in front of me and I ran smack dab into the backside of the small hybrid.  Who parked this car here? At this point I did what most people would do…I made it look like I knew what I was doing and that I meant to run into the back of the vehicle…while simultaneously glancing casually around to see if anyone had witnessed my embarrassing snafu.  Then, I rode away…wondering…“Why is my bike making a new ‘womp, womp, womp,’ sound?”

Here I was…extremely focused on discovering the cause of a mechanical problem, so that it could be repaired…only to miss a much bigger picture in front of me…a large white automobile! Tunnel vision is a natural response to the circumstantial elements in our lives.  When a problem arises, it is only reasonable to focus on the issue at hand.  When your wedding anniversary is speedily approaching, it is only reasonable to focus all of your energy and attention to ensure your wife’s happiness…or at the very least scramble enough to make it “look” like all of your attention has been on her for the last week and a half.  It can sometimes be beneficial to order some gifts from Amazon the day before her birthday that will never arrive in time…only to save them for your anniversary…just remember where you hid them.

In Daniel 9:20-27, as Daniel is continuing his prayer, we find God give an answer. Yet, what is perhaps most striking to me, is that while Daniel is praying about the “end of the exile,” God’s answer actually gives Daniel a much larger picture.  While Daniel’s focus and concern is on the end of the 70 year exile…God’s focus is on the 500 years to come…which will culminate in the astounding work of grace that Jesus gives us on the cross!

Daniel’s perspective isn’t bad…it is just short. God wants Daniel to see the big picture of what he is doing…offering grace to mankind!  Noises of life can often distract us from the bigger picture…whether bicycle noise, interpersonal conflicts, unfinished jobs at home or at the office.  Perhaps the next time we run into a car with our bicycle…or smash our face into a  light post as you are looking for pennies on the sidewalk, or get down about the rain on our wedding day, we can be reminded to turn off the noise and look to the great and glorious picture of grace…and a bigger picture that there is still MORE TO COME!

I replaced the chain...and he sound was gone.

Saturday, June 8, 2019



I remember standing in the garage as a child, while my dad was replacing the front brakes on his 1978 Chevy pickup.  He had lifted the front end and secured it with jack stands.  As any good father would, he told me to keep back so as not to get hurt…or accidentally kick him in the face as he crawled beneath the vehicle to inspect the ball joints.  I recall him telling me a story, as he crept along inspecting the under carriage, of a young boy who lifted a car off of his dad when the car accidentally fell on him.  I stood there pondering his story.  “Interesting timing,” I thought...it was a little freaky to think about the car falling and crushing your dad while he worked beneath. Finally, I replied, “Don’t get your hopes up…I can hardly carry the big pieces of wood to the fireplace.”

He rebutted, “Sometimes when faced with incredibly difficult challenges…we can find ourselves going beyond what we thought we were capable of.”

“Really! Like lifting a car?”

“Yep, when under stress, your adrenaline can empower you to do amazing things.”

“Wow!...What’s adrenaline?”

“It’s a hormone”

“Oh…ok…What’s a hormone?”

“You’ll find out when you’re 12.”

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

I have yet to lift a car by myself…although, 3 fellow high school wrestlers and I, did pick up my buddy Norman’s car and turn it sideways in his parking spot after school one day.  I have, however, found myself doing things that were indeed beyond what I could have expected…like singing a duet at a wedding! The father of that bride could sell ice cream to an Eskimo…because…I can’t sing…I don’t sing…my voice is like a screaming frog fighting its way out of a blender! It’s bad…really bad…yet, there I was…somehow finding myself going beyond what I thought myself capable of!

Similarly, during a recent spring day, I found myself playing basketball with Isaac and two high school freshmen.  I play basketball like a pit-bull with the jumping skills of a donut.  Yet, when I saw these two kids and the basketball, I knew that God was calling me to something beyond my own comforts.  I was convinced that I needed to submit to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and engage these students…a refugee and his buddy, into relationship. I want to love people more than I love pain free living…more than my comfortable relationships…and more than self preservation.

The Bible is filled with stories of God calling people to go beyond what they could do on their own.  Moses, leading the people out of Egypt…Gideon fighting the Midianites with only 300 men…Israel conquering Jericho…Daniel facing the den of lions…the stories go on and on.  I must wonder,  “Does God still call us to go beyond what we can do on our own?”  I proclaim the answer with an exuberant, “YES! Yes He does!”

In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul expresses to the young church in Ephesus the amazing transformation that each one of them has experienced.  A common bond existed…and still exists…each and every one of them has once been “dead in their own sin”! Now, they are alive in Christ! What is even more stunning…is that Paul is speaking to both Jews and Gentiles…racial opponents.  We too, hold to this common ground…with every man and woman who has ever lived.  We are all dead in our sins…without Jesus! 

I think that the time has come where we must see others for who they are…men and women created in the image of God…and JUST LIKE US…they are desperate for Jesus.  We need to go beyond where we are comfortable…beyond what we know…and allow Jesus to do what only He can do…save people.  Our job…is to go beyond what we can do…and let the Holy Spirit work.  We do not need to be afraid.  1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love drives out fear.”  We can’t love perfectly…it is beyond us.  Thankfully, Jesus calls us to go beyond what we can do on our own…and by His power…love perfectly.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


The Graduate


Last weekend I attended my little brother’s graduation ceremony.  He graduated from high school in 1998…I think…and I am pretty sure that he graduated from college in 2002.  I didn’t attend either ceremony…so what am I doing here…attending his graduate school graduation?...I don’t exactly know…but I will tell you this…he owes me.  As I sat in the auditorium, hanging on every word of a soon to be PhD graduate in Bio-science and specializing in something, something, etc., etc, I realized that I hadn’t been surrounded by so many degrees since 2004, when I took a group of high school students to Phoenix, Arizona in mid July.

To occupy my time during the pomp and circumstance, I attempted to order a pizza from my older brother who owns a Pizza Ranch in South Dakota.  He was not in attendance because he “had to work.” I told him, “Well then, get to work and bring me a pizza.”

“I am not going to bring you a pizza! We don’t deliver to auditoriums…especially auditoriums that are 3 hours away!”

“The way things are going here…I think that if you hurry, I’m pretty sure you can have it here before this ceremony is over!”

I didn’t get my pizza.  Thus, I resorted to pass the time by reading the commencement program where each graduate was pictured.  Alongside each image, was a list of the graduate’s accomplishments and where they were going to head off into the wild blue yonder of jobs, families and paychecks.   Each of these graduates was heading off to new horizons and exciting new occupations…except one. There was one graduate who apparently had no idea what she was going to do after graduation…nothing was listed…hey!, maybe she could deliver pizzas! Hey, I could use one right about now!

I reflected on my own college graduation day…seems like just 20 years ago.  I walked up onto the platform…received my degree…went back to my seat and thought…huh…now what?  I had no idea what I was going to do next.  In fact…as soon as I walk out of that auditorium…I was homeless.  

This truth seemed to frustrate my dad…which is weird…it’s not like he was homeless…I was.

“Hey Dad, if you are so concerned with me being homeless…how about giving me a couple thousand dollars…that would help for a couple of months!”

I received nothing but a rolling of the eyes and long lecture.

“What are you going to do?”

“What do you mean?” I replied

“We are packing up your car…where are you going to take your stuff?  You have no place to stay.”

“I will figure something out.”

“Like what?”

“Hmmm…I don’t know…I think maybe I will head over to my friend Jim’s apartment…he has let me sleep on his couch before…I can probably just stay there.  Look…here he comes now…I can ask him.”

“Hey Jim, can I stay at your apartment tonight?”

“Sorry man…my lease is up and I am heading to Virginia”

(Cue Chirping Crickets)

Well…didn’t see that coming.

“Now what are you going to do?” My Dad asked in a very, “I love you, but you are a fool” tone.

“Well…first I have to go pick up the boat that I just bought and then I have to work tonight at 4:00”…I delivered pizzas…and just for the record…I may have considered driving 3 hours to deliver a pizza to my brother…and maybe stayed for a few months.

“You bought a boat!?”

“Yeah…coolest thing…I bought this boat, but it had no trailer…and then the DNR just gave me this abandoned trailer to haul it…sweet deal huh?”

“How can you afford that?”

“I found $350 in my glove box! I must have forgotten that I had put it in there…and then when I needed it…boom! There it was!  Awesome huh?”

“How did you NOT know that you had been missing $350?”

“I fail to see your point on this.”

While my dad and I were continuing our consultation…one of the Crown College administrators walked up to me and asked…”Hey Ryan, do you need a place to stay? I just had a place open up here at the college…I can get you an apartment for about ¼ of what you would find anywhere else.  Craziest thing…I had been booked up for months…but this just opened up.”

“Hey Dad…would you mind helping me unload the car? Looks like I’m staying.”
I have probably frustrated some people by the way I live…perhaps my wife included…but I tend not to ask, because I really don’t think I want to hear the answer.  Yet, is there not a beauty in watching how God has provided and handled so many unknowns along the way. 

In the Old Testament Book of Daniel Chapter 9, we find Daniel, anticipating the end of the 70 year exile to Babylon.  There are only a few years left and as he waits, we find him engaging in time with the Lord.  He is reading the Scriptures and he is praying.  Time and time again Daniel has experienced how God has taken care of every little detail in his life.  One key note in this prayer of Daniel…is that Daniel ALWAYS prays prayers that coincide with the will of God.  God has given us promises.  God had given Daniel and the Israelites the promise we find in Jeremiah 29:11…"I know the plans that I have for you…plans for you to prosper and to give you a hope and a future." God is going to restore Israel back to the Promised Land and take them out of exile. 

Daniel was able to see clearly how God honored his covenant of love with his people.  Daniel knew that God was going to continue to take care of them.  Even if they, in fact, found themselves homeless…God had more for them that was yet to come.

How do we respond when we don’t know what’s next? Where is the first place we go? It appears for Daniel…that place was the Scriptures and to prayer.

May you find yourself connecting with God in the Scriptures and in prayer…waiting for Him to do all that he said he WILL do…knowing…that He desperately cares and loves you.

Friday, May 17, 2019


Loaded Diaper


There is one task that strikes fear into the hearts of new fathers more than any other…the changing of a baby’s diaper. There are some men, more innovative than myself, that have somehow managed to avoid this bone chilling chore,  perhaps, going their entire fatherhood careers without having to engage in the act of dispensing of the diapers of doom.

As men, we spend countless hours conjuring up excuses to alleviate the obligated operation.  I have found that it works best to have a list of alternative “emergency tasks” to divert from the parental duty.  For example, if you could keep a hammer stashed near the water main and you hear the paralyzing words…“Ryan, the baby needs a diaper change,”…you could quickly use the hammer to strike the water main.  “Sorry dear!...I am dealing with a water leak…I wish I could help but I can’t…this is a serious emergency!”

Other copious options could include: shattering a mirror, starting a grease fire in the oven, burning eggs on the stove, plugging and overflowing the toilet, ripping a door off of its hinges, or simply running out of the house yelling…“What’s that? I can’t hear you! I have to go save this squirrel in the street…he is about to get hit by a car!”

There is a final option…you could just pull yourself together and walk into the baby’s room and dial 911.

Some men are just smarter than I am and have managed to create a larger distance between themselves and the dirty diapers.  I somehow had to face my fears and learn to change diapers.  Before I engaged in the toxic practice, I went to the local hardware store and purchased the necessities…a respirator, goggles and large rubber gloves. 

The things you encounter during a diaper change are some of the worst encounters known to mankind.  Babies are amazingly cute until they fill their pants and need you to expose the filth.  The first clue is the odor…but even that is nothing compared to the revelation of the filth.  There is a reason that seat-belts have been added to changing tables…because when you buckle your baby in…they will stay safe until you regain consciousness from the vapor induced coma. 

There is no one, I don’t care how experienced they might be, that is not affected by the filth that babies create.  Some deal with it better than others…but to all people it is the same thing…filth…and the filth MUST be dealt with.

The Prophet Daniel had a dream that he recorded in the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 8.  In this dream, he sees a series of troubling images…but perhaps the most disturbing image he sees is sin in its true nature…filth.  It is easy for us to keep our sins concealed…hidden…unexposed.  After a while we may even get used to the stench. 

Remarkably, my diaper changing experiences helped harden me to the stench and filth created by my fourth child.  By this time I was no longer wearing a mask…at least not all of the time…sometimes I even went without gloves!

When Daniel sees sin in its true nature…it says that he is “sick for days.”  Are we ever sickened by sin?  Are we sickened only by other peoples’ sin? Do we ever become sickened by our own sin?  Sin is a big deal…and we should be sickened by it…yet we should see that we have Jesus, who willingly cleans up our filth. 

I wonder if he ever wears a mask and goggles?

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Assured


While the lightsaber hung from my hand, above the 30 gallon garbage can, my son cried and screamed, “Dad! No!”

I was ready to drop it into the trash and he knew that I was willing and intended to do it. After multiple less than stellar events as a father, I had earned the reputation of “Dad the Toy Trasher.  My parenting has been heavily influence by my father who threw many of our toys away. “Clean up your room or I will give your toys away to someone who will take care of them!,” he would bellow.

In which my sister ignorantly replied, “Oh! You could give this to Emily…she would really like this!”

“Let’s try this again…pick up your toys or I will throw them away!”

“No! Dad! Don’t!”

But there were times…many times…when he did.

In this particular case however…it was my mistake that led to this ordeal.  My mistake was taking my wife out on a date and leaving my children home with a sitter…I should have known it would end in disaster.

This poor sitter’s only mistake was overcooking the recently frozen pizza. When she took the darkened pie out of the oven my only son flipped out screamed, “I’m not eating that!”
Unfortunately for him…he was really hungry…hungry for pizza…but did not want to eat the black crusted slice that was offered him. So instead he began his tantrum…slamming cupboard doors and drawers until one of the drawers broke…falling to pieces before his eyes.  He stood there in shock…realizing what he had done…and that he would now be in even bigger trouble… he leaked out the word, “There…you see…that’s how mad I was.”

You can imagine how mad his dad was upon returning home.

When we received the report upon our arrival, I instructed him as to how he would be paying for the repair of the drawer and that he would need to write an apology. 

He refused to write the apology.  Thus, I stood with the dangling Star Wars weapon.  I had already thrown away a toy shotgun…and a Nerf dart gun.  It was now the lightsaber’s turn.
“You will write an apology or the lightsaber gets it!”

He knew what was going to happen next…because of what had already happened in the recent past.

Finally he relented and agreed to write the apology.

In Daniel chapter 7 we find our main character, Daniel, have a very disturbing and prophetic dream.  He sees strange and scary beasts coming up out of a churning and chaotic sea.  Each creature representing a different nation that rises to power…yet, in the midst and timing of it all, God almighty arrives on the scene as well as the Son of Man who will kill the final beast and set up an eternal kingdom.  We can easily become overwhelmed with the prophecies and symbolism we find in such readings.  But, I think that there is a beauty in these prophecies that we should be careful to not overlook.

Do you ever wonder why God even used prophecy?  I have become convinced, that God gives us these prophecies to help us to see who he really is.  He is the Almighty God.  He tells us what he is going to do ahead of time so that we recognize him…we see his work…we see what he is doing and know that once again he is trustworthy and true to his promises.  We can know that he will do what he says he will do…because he has done what he said he would do.  We know that Jesus is coming back, because he said that he is coming back.  We know it because he came the first time…and God said he would come the first time. 

That is what the prophecy in Daniel 7 points to.  Daniel sees the Son of God almost 500 years before he came the first time!  God gives us this prophecy so that we can see and know who Jesus is!...the Son of God…was…and is…and is to come!

Jesus will come back…even more assuredly as the lightsaber would have hit the trash.  So maybe we should just relent…and say yes to following him?

Saturday, April 27, 2019


A Den of Lions



When I was growing up, there was a location of fear and doom for awkward 3rd grade boys.  Every day at the same time, my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Olson would line up the class at the door to be sent out for a drink from the water fountain and to empty our tiny weak bladders in the lavatory.  Often, as 

I stood in line I was thinking…praying even… “Hurry…hurry…hurry…let’s go!” though no words passed through my lips.  How long did we need to stand here waiting?  Timing was everything! As we prepared for our trip to the restroom, my impatience came to near explosion.  Not just because my eyeballs would be floating…but, also because, if our dismissal was delayed any longer we would be sent into the tiled walls of doom which would already house countless 5th graders. 

The goal was to get in, finish your business and get out, before the 5th graders entered. It seemed a rare occasion where I would find such success.  More often than not, our paths would cross.  Sometimes, we were sent into the toilets of terror before the 5th graders arrived…only to get halfway through our duty before a 5th grader would come up behind you and torture you, while you are still unable to flee.

However, it was even worse when you knew the 5th graders were already occupying the space that Mrs. Olson was ignorantly sending us into.  “Go on now boys,” she would say.

“That’s ok…I don’t really have to go.”

“Now, now…none of that…I know you Ryan and if you don’t go now you will be asking to go as soon as we get back into the classroom.”

“Exactly!,” I thought, but didn’t state…“then, I would know that the lion’s den would be empty!”

“Go on…get in there!”

As my heart beat against my ribs and my knees trembled like grandma’s thanksgiving Jell-O, I shuffled into the chamber of creative tortures. If I could just get into a stall as quickly as possible and lock the door…I would have a chance.  As I hustled in, I came face to face with Mike McFlushya*.  Mike was well known as the Soldier of Swirly.  I think even his mother would have feared him if she hadn’t had pythons for arms, a tattoo of a cobra on her neck, serpents for hair and answered to the name Mommy Medusa.  Mike laughed as a fellow 3rd grade classmate exited the lavatory curiously wet above his ears. “Ha!,” chortled Mike, looking me squarely in the eyes, “You’re next.”

“Who me?”

“Yes, you!...bwahaha”

Gulp!

Mike grabbed me by my shoulders and began escorting me toward the last stall. “Please God, help me!”

Just then…the 5th Grade teacher Mr. Nelson walked in.

“You boys get back to class now!...What are you doing anyway?”

“Just helping this poor 3rd grader find an open stall.”

I am pretty sure I saw white wings on the shoulders of Mr. Nelson that day.

There is a story in the book of Daniel that makes my experience look like a trip to the restroom…oh wait…it was.

When Daniel was an old man he was still in the service of the king, (Darius the Mede).  He had remarkably kept his integrity beyond that of any other man.  So much so, that his enemies had to create imaginary accusations to make him guilty of a crime. His punishment was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions.  Throughout Daniel’s ordeal we see him continually serving, following, and praying to God almighty.  Astonishingly, the lions didn’t touch him. Daniel’s life was spared.

What I find to be the most motivating element of this story is Daniel’s confidence in God.  Whether he lives or whether he dies is irrelevant.  He knows that there is more to come.  There is more to come if he lives and there is more to come if he dies.  God is bigger than his circumstances.  Daniel remains faithful to God…and God as always, remained faithful to Daniel.
God is bigger than our circumstances too, and just like Daniel…no matter where we are at…there IS more to come.

How do you face the lions in your life?

*names have been changed to protect the guilty

Saturday, April 20, 2019


Green Jacket


Three of my brothers-in-law and I stepped out of the Ford Freestyle, just as the sun was making its appearance over the distant pines of south, central Wisconsin.  Once a year, the four of us would gather in a central location to battle it out on the fairways.  We play to win.  We play for pride.  We play for a Goodwill green jacket.

We like to arrive early…so early, in fact, that the course has not yet opened and even the squirrels were still snug in their nests.  Why so early?...to avoid the possibility of being seen by onlookers who may ridicule our game or unfashionable clothing.  I stood and waited for my fellow competitors to secure their cleats to their feet.  As I lingered, I couldn’t help but sarcastically mock them at the “imperative” value that these cleats will have on their game.  “Wow! Now you are going to win for sure!  I would hate to have you slip and fall while making that crucial putt! Boy I wish I had cleats…because then maybe I would have a chance to win!”

We walked to the first t-box.  I set my overpriced coffee down on the dew covered grass.  It was a short par 3…only 115 yards or so to the pin.  I pulled out my pitching wedge and teed the ball nice and high to limit my distance.  I can modify my swing to three stages…hard, harder, hardest.  I stepped up to the ball and gave it a nice hard stroke.  The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back looking at the tree tops…while all three of my brothers-in-law were rolling with laughter…I should have worn cleats.

I was so inspired this past week, as I watched Tiger Woods achieve legendary greatness by winning his 5th green jacket…at the antiqued age of 43. I am astounded that he can even walk, let alone play golf.  You would think he would need a walker by this time…perhaps even a wheel chair…or at the very least a cane…although he could probably get by using his putter to keep him upright.  I know how he must feel because as I rolled out of bed this morning to popping knees, twisted neck, and a back that kept me folded in half until 30 minutes after my shower…I realized…I am also 43 years old...in fact, I am a month and a half younger.  Thus…by the definition of the transitive property…I should also be able to win the next Masters tournament…although my odds may increase just a bit if I played golf more than once a year.

During one of our annual tournaments I was leading heading into the last hole.  My brother-in-law was easily within striking distance.  I was on the t-box and all I needed to do was a nice easy swing and keep the ball in the fairway.  So I wondered, “What swing should I use? Hard, harder or hardest?”  I opted for hardest…that should be a nice easy swing to keep it onto the fairway.  I swung the club nice and hard…crushing the ball!...hooking it hard to the left…on a “dogleg right!” Yikes!  There goes the game…the match…the tournament…the green jacket!  Until…my ball hits high and hard on a giant white pine…and kicks hard right…into the middle of the fairway…set up for a lovely look to the green.  My brother-in-law rolled his eyes and said, “What was that!”

“Clean living Dave…clean living.”

There is a story that Jesus shares in the Gospel of Luke.  It is a story about a father who had two sons.  The younger of the two sons, insults his dad by asking for his inheritance early…a request that pretty much says…“Dad, I wish you were dead so I can have my share of your money.”  This disrespectful son then goes off and spends all of his inheritance and finds himself broken and poor. When he comes to his senses and goes back home…his father lavishes love and riches on him once again…while the older brother looks on with disdain.  He says “Dad…I never received a party in my honor…what about me?”  The irony…is that both sons were not in love with their father…they were in love with themselves.  They only saw their father as a means to “get what they wanted.” Both sons were lost…only one comes to realize it…but the other does not.  Have you been lost? Are you lost now? Are you lost but you don’t realize it?  There is direction.

Sometimes we go through life thinking that if I do all of the “right things”…if I live a “clean” life, then God will bless us.  In a case like that…what are we concerned about?...God or ourselves? Do we want God or do we want stuff from God? Do I care about God or do I simply care about keeping my ball on the fairway.

Are you lost? There is direction…it is Jesus.

Friday, April 12, 2019


Winter Storm Wesley



Sometimes it is difficult to look out the window and watch the snow fall in torrents…especially as we have all waited so patiently for spring to arrive.  Yet, I think if we try really hard, we can come up with some benefits…advantages…nicenesses (made up word) about our recent encounter with Winter Storm Wesley.

Top 10 advantages to the recent snow storm:

10.  We can be thankful that our name is not Wesley.  Unless of course your names is Wesley…in which then I am desperately sorry for all of the ridicule, hate mail and blame that you may have received with the recent mid April snow fall that you brought us.  How could you? What were you thinking? This is all your fault!

9.  Many of us were able to spend an extra day at home with our children since their school got cancelled.  Is there a better way to spend a snow day than to be locked inside with aggressive, stir crazy children that cannot find anything better to do than to fight and make messes?  What a blessing to have them around!

8.  We were able to double check the effectiveness of our 4x4 transmissions…and be reminded of the poor traction of our minivans.

7.  This storm allowed us to divert our frustration from our children to the plow driver who just plowed our driveways in with 2 feet of heavy wet snow.

6.  We get to wear our favorite sweater and boots again!...and here we didn’t think we would be blessed with that opportunity again for 4 months! Hooray!

5.  Our brown lawns are no longer brown!

4. The robins in the tree are easier to see and watch…although they appear to be angry and confused, perhaps thinking that they have all gone suddenly colorblind.  I am pretty sure I just heard a baby robin say, “Mommy…what is happening! Everything is white! Am I dying? Should I go into the white?”  Or did it just say…“ Tweet! Tweet!” Hard to tell…it could have been either.

3.  This made us procrastinators look brilliant! “No dear…this is exactly why I didn’t put the snow blower away yet…No, it did not have anything to do with laziness…or watching the NCAA Basketball tournament…It was all a plan to be able to continually provide you a nice clean place to park...outside the garage…because inside the garage is where the snow blower has to be kept.”

2.  It gave us all something to talk about. “Well how about that snow huh?”  “Yep, it’s something” “Yep, sure is.” “Supposed to get quite a bit” “Yep, sure are”  “Well it’s been nice talking to you.” “Yep, you too.”

1. Well, now at least you don’t have to go to your Great Great Aunt Mertle’s 15th birthday party for her pet cat Fluffy.  “Oh, Aunt Mertle, I would love to come…but I am sorry, this snow storm has got me totally blocked in…no, no, you don’t need to use your tractor to come and plow me out…no it isn’t safe for you to come…no really…please this is not necessary...Aunt Mertle?...hello?...Aunt Mertle?...”

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Wall


I was talking with my dad after my last blog entry about pulling stumps…He said to me, “You make me sound like a slave driver.” In which my mother replied…“You were!”   
However, people change. It was just a month and a half ago, that I asked my dad if he wanted to head out ice fishing, with me and my son.  The snow was too deep to be able to drive out onto the ice…and dragging a sled would probably leave my son way too exhausted to fish…especially after the multiple trips he would have to take to pull the sled out, ice augers, bait bucket, tip ups, heater, rods, and the rest of the gear.  All the while, I may have frozen to death waiting for him to get all of the equipment out and set up.  Needless to say…we needed grandpa to join us…he had the snowmobile.  My dad replied...“It’s too cold!” 
“What!?” I replied… “What happened to the man who used to make us head out to cut those three cords of wood in -30 below weather?”
“He got older…and wiser.”
Hindsight is always 20/20…but as I have grown older, I have come to know the wisdom of my slave driving patriarch.  If he hadn’t pushed me and my brothers to help with the wood cutting, we would have likely frozen to death in that country farmhouse…only to wake up to the news reports…“Family of 6 parishes in bitter Minnesota winter due to lazy children.”  But on the flip side…if dad hadn’t taught me this work ethic, I might still be living in his basement eating Cheetos and allowing my mother the privilege of washing my dirty socks…although...I would probably just walk around barefoot…unless, of course, dad didn’t have enough wood to keep the house warm…then I might wear his slippers.
This “wiser man” has now switched to propane…and now makes the three of us boys install 15 year shingles on his roof, instead of 30 year shingles...he doesn’t plan on living long enough to make us re-shingle again.
This man is so inspiring, that I cannot help but live up to his example.  “Hey Isaac…go grab a spade and start digging a hole in the back yard!”
“Why?”
“Because we don’t have any stumps and I don’t want you living here till you are 43!...Now Dig!”
Daniel Chapter 5 contains a semi-well known, but obscure, story about a spoiled brat.  At the time of this story…a man by the name of Nabonidus is the King of Babylon, but he has left the city of Babylon to build himself a palace in Tayma…(south and east of Babylon).  He has been gone for 10 years and has left his son Belshazzar in charge.  The problem is that Belshazzar is nothing but a partier…reveler…and a drunkard.  While Belshazzar is busy partying…the King of Persia has surrounded his city and is ready to attack.  However, Belshazzar has plenty of food, wine, water, pizza, Xbox and a city that is so well fortified he could about live out his life in the city without worrying about anyone…let alone Persia.  In his arrogance, he takes the sacred vessels that had been taken from God’s Temple in Jerusalem and uses them in his mockingly arrogant fiesta.
There is only so much that God will take…and at this moment, he has had enough.  God’s very hand writes on the wall and says…“Numbers, Numbers, Counted, Divided.”  Translated: Belshazzar…God has numbered your transgressions…they are counted against you…and you will be cut down!”...the writing is on the wall.
Then it happened…that very night, his city was conquered and he lost his life!
What’s the point?  We serve a very loving and gracious God…but there will come a point where as if we are not coming to know Him…and or leading others to know Him…he will cut us off.  I can’t help but to contrast the response between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.  Both are given an opportunity to know God…however, only one finally chooses to follow Him, while the other chooses to mock Him.  It is difficult to reconcile God’s response…but He desires to transform us.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


Stump


“Hey boys!...Want to have some fun?”

“Ummm…I don’t know Dad…The last time you asked us if we wanted to have some fun, you took us out to cut 3 cords of wood in -30°F temperatures…cut, split, stacked, unloaded, re-stacked…then we went inside for popsicles.”

“No…that’s not right.” My brother replied, “The last time was when he had us help him put the 30ft. antenna pole on top of the 10/12 pitched 2nd story roof, in a wind storm.”

“Oh yeah…that’s right…Sorry Dad…I think we’ll pass on this one.”

“Nope…no passing allowed…grab an ax, a spade and the grub maul…we are going to pull some stumps!”

“Dad! It’s like 98 degrees outside!”

“A little sweat is good for ya!”

“Oooo, how exciting…maybe afterward we can go inside for some hot cocoa!”

The vast 3 acres of land that surrounded my boyhood home was littered with box elder trees.  These trees were fabulous for recreational climbing as well as escaping the retaliations of younger siblings.  Yet, these trees were notorious for falling limbs…blowing down during thunderstorms and taking all of our summer freedom and childhood dreams of play away as we spent endless hours pulling stumps.

It is possible that the “stump grinder” had not been invented yet.  Though it is more likely that my father was unwilling to rent or hire out the job of grinding the stumps…because it is much cheaper to replace ax handles, bandage up bleeding heads and rebuild manual transmissions.

My dad, two brothers and I picked up the tools and got to work.  We chipped away at the ground around the stump, following the roots out until we could sever them with the ax.  We hacked away at the roots one by one...digging deeper and deeper as we attempted to get under the stump.  We would jab away with an old steel ice chisel until we could get a logging chain wrapped under the belly of the stump.  We would secure the other end of the chain to the Chevy Silvarado…back the truck up right to the edge of the stump…rev the engine…dump the clutch and gun it.  The truck would come to an abrupt bone crushing stop!  We usually remembered to secure our seat belt…after we peeled our teeth off of the steering wheel from the initial attempt.

“Must still be some root holding on…”

“Really Dad? You think?!”

Hack, hack, hack, chop, chop, chop, dig, dig, dig, poke, poke poke…”Ok…Try it again!”

Vroom…vroom…vroom…whaaaa…slam!...”Hey Ryan…your nose is bleeding…maybe you should buckle up!”

Hack, hack, hack, chop, chop, chop, dig, dig, dig, poke, poke poke…“Ok…Try it again!”

This pattern continued until the stump would finally come free. 

I recall pulling one stump when I was home from college one summer.  As we were working, my future brother-in-law pulled up into the driveway.  My dad sauntered up to the smitten young man, 

“So…I hear that you want to marry my daughter huh?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then secure this logging chain to your truck.”

The only thing better than using a 4x4 to pull stumps…is to use a future son-in-law’s 4x4 to pull stumps.  In times of old it wasn’t uncommon for a young, bespoken, affianced man to pay a dowry for the hand of his soon to be bride…or in some rare cases…the use of your 4x4 to pull a stump…and perhaps the cost of a new bumper…seems a fair price.

If stumps are left in the ground…it is not uncommon to see some life still spring up from the base.  Small young branches may sprout and grow.  However, when the roots are cut…and the stumps removed…that tree is gone for good.

There is a story in the book of Daniel…chapter 4…about how God cuts the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, down to size.  Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and arrogance is over the top.  Nebuchadnezzar sees himself as the mightiest man in the world…yet, God does something remarkable.  God removes him from power…he cuts him down.  Yet, God leaves the “stump.”  God cuts Nebuchadnezzar down…not to destroy him…but rather to draw the king to himself.  God leaves the roots and the stumps because he desires to put Nebuchadnezzar back on the throne.  God changes Nebuchadnezzar’s heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh…and he does so, through some very painful experiences.  In the end Nebuchadnezzar glorifies God and praises him for what He did.

Can you praise God through the pain?  Will you?

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.