Saturday, March 23, 2019


“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


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.”




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.