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


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?