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.