Saturday, July 20, 2019

Spilled Milk

My son loves cereal.  He always has.  He comes by it honestly…because in this capacity, he is just like his mother.  I like cereal fine…however, cereal in my eyes, always seems to lead to messes and spills...I can tolerate messes to a degree…but I do not tolerate spills well, and messy spills are the worst!

When my wife was pregnant with our 4th child, she was appeasing one of her prenatal cravings by making herself some late night oatmeal.  This was a nice change to some of her other cravings, as it was not uncommon that I would find myself making a midnight run to Perkins to pick up some mozzarella sticks and a chocolate shake to satiate her appetite.  On one particularly snowy December night, I drove through town in a blizzard to get her a Subway sandwich…only to find the restaurant had closed due to the inclement weather.

Oatmeal…even late at night…meant that I did not have to slip on my winter boots and head out! As she picked up her hot bowl of oatmeal and began walking into the family room…ready to settle in and enjoy her hot cereal and watch a late night episode of Martha Bakes on PBS…the bowl burned her hand and she threw the bowl onto the floor, splattering the oatmeal everywhere!  I would have preferred to go get some mozzarella sticks in -20° temperatures, yet I bit my tongue.  I have not always been so silent at the moment of the messy messes, but this was one of my better moments.
They say there is no use crying over spilt milk.  Really? I cry over spilt milk all the time…I mean like ALL THE TIME!!!  My poor children are well aware of my aversion to spills and when spills take place I can see their whole bodies tense up… “Oh No!...I spilled!...What is Dad going to say?...he is going to be so mad!” 

Sadly…they are correct.  I take no pride as to how I react to spilled milk.  I am sorry family…but I am trying to grow in this way.  My son probably spills more milk than anyone in the house.  It is likely because he is always eating cereal…and is about as reckless as a squirrel on a jet ski and has about as much laser focus as a teenager driving while texting.

I remember on one occasion, as he was pouring a brand new gallon of milk over his cereal, the heavy jug slipped out of his hand landing sideways and began pouring all over the table and the floor.  His shoulders slumped and his chin sagged as he knew that I would not be happy.  But what was worse for me…was watching him…just sit there…watching all of the milk continue to pour out of the jug!

“Pick it up! Pick it up!” I cried.  See…there is a use to crying over spilled milk.

In actuality…what can you do?  You grab a towel and you begin to sop it up.  There is no way to salvage any part of it.  It’s not like dropping an Oreo cookie that you can quickly snatch back up…claiming the 5 second rule and pop it back into your mouth.  Licking the floor looks weird and has been known to be unsanitary.

What can you do?  Nothing.  You can clean it up and move on.  You can continue to live your life…and learn to not get so riled up about spilled milk.

In Daniel 12:5-13 we find God giving Daniel some final words of counsel.  Daniel is late in life and has had visions of a future that has left his armpits sweaty and his heart deeply troubled.  He wants to know some answers to questions like,“When is all this going to happen?”… “Who will this man of lawlessness be?”  God doesn’t necessarily give him the answers that he is looking for.  Rather the answer is more along the lines of…“It is not for you to know.”

So what IS for Daniel to know? Simply put, God tells Daniel to “Go your way.” God calls Daniel to live his life for Him…to continue to serve Him…even if he does not know all of the answers.

Sometimes God calls us to move forward…to follow Him…to trust Him…even without knowing all of the answers. There are some things that we just won’t fully know.  There are some things that we cannot do anything about.  It’s kind of like spilled milk…I can sit and cry over it…or I can understand that it is done and I can move on.  Daniel knew the future…he worried about it…he wanted to understand it…yet, it was not for him to know or do anything about…he needed to move on. 

Maybe it’s time for me to stop crying over the spilled milk and just, “Go my way”…perhaps after I have sopped it up…off of the floor with a towel…and tried wringing as much as I can back into the container.   

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Card

A couple of weeks ago, I officiated a wedding.  I had known the bride for years, and had worked extensively with the couple, as we prepared for their marriage and the ceremony.  Upon the completion of the service, the pronouncing of the couple and the signing of the marriage license, I watched the wedding party board the bus and head off to rejoice with their friends as they celebrated their new marriage.  Eventually they would make it to the reception, where I would once again be needed.  But, as for now…I spent the next hour cleaning and tidying up the church before the next day’s service.

By the time I got home, my wife and I found that we only had about 30 minutes or so before we had to turn around and leave again to make it to the reception in time.  It is remarkable how quickly time can get away from us.  My wife had the gift wrapped and ready to go, but the card had not yet been signed.  She slid the card in front of me and said…“You are the one who knows the couple…sign this for them so I can put it with the gift.”

“Sure thing.”

I spent some time and wrote a very sincere and heartfelt message to the couple. I expressed how much I enjoyed participating in their special day and encouraged them in their new lives together.  We then drove to the reception where we forgot the card and gift in the truck.  We didn’t want to look stupid, and turn around to go back and get the card as soon as we stepped into the reception hall…so we decided to mingle and eat first.  Before departing we made the special trip back to the truck, walking 4 blocks one way…and then 4 blocks back…uphill…both ways…in sweltering heat…wearing dress shoes…just to retrieve the gift and the card.  We walked into the reception hall once again…dropped the gift into the gift box and turned around and headed for home. 

The following Wednesday afternoon (4 days later), my wife called me at the office.  “Hello dear.”

“Well, hello Honey.” 

“I was just curious if you read the wedding card that you signed for the wedding last Saturday.”

“Honestly…No I did not…I wrote a nice message on the card…but no, I did not read it. In fact, who cares what the card said…a wedding card is a wedding card.” I said.

 “That’s just it.” She replied.

“What’s just it?”

“I bought two cards that day…and I just found a wedding card.”

“Fine…we used one and we have one on hand for the next wedding.”

“No, you don’t understand…I bought two cards that day…a wedding card and a sympathy card…and I just found the wedding card!”

“Oh my goodness!!!...that is super awkward!”

Well…it is not uncommon to find the marriage announcements right next to the obituaries…so…maybe it’s one in the same?

In times like this, I can’t help but wonder…what will these people think of me? What do we do? How do we fix this? Eeeek!...why did we have to remember to go back and get the gift from the truck? I wish we had just left it!

In Daniel chapter 11 we see Daniel receive a vision which causes him to be aware of what is prophesied to come in the days ahead.  Jesus even tells us to “watch” as we look toward the future…to be aware of what is going on around us.  I should have been more aware of what I was signing.  In Daniel chapter 12, we essentially see Daniel nervously asking God… “What now?...What do I do?  How do I deal with thisl?”.  God’s response is to challenge Daniel with a call to continue to live for God…to “…go your way…” even if we don’t know what the next day holds.  We are to keep on living for him.

We will always make mistakes…but keep on…continue…keep following…even if we are afraid…worried…anxious…burdened.  Go your way.  Please God, not mankind…and always read your wedding cards.

Saturday, July 6, 2019


In 1998 I went to Six Flags amusement park in Chicago, Illinois.  I was working at a church in the western suburbs and three of us…all youth ministry workers from the church…decided to go on a “scouting” field trip to Six Flags.  It is only reasonable, that if we were ever going to bring students on an excursion to Six Flags…it was paramount that we know ahead of time; the layout of the park, the best attractions to ride, which are the cleanest restrooms and where the nearest garbage cans can be found in the event of vomiting.  This was strictly a professional and an entirely business minded trip…and I can attest…that very little entertainment occurred on my part.

We explored rides like Batman, The Joker, The Viper, and The Demon…yes…the Demon…three youth pastors stepping into the un-treaded waters of The Demon…and yes…I do see the irony of it all.  Overall, I do not care for roller coasters…in fact, I would describe them as something created by psychotic doctors as a way to induce vomiting…or by deranged psychiatrists to swarm up more business by making the average person’s sanity wane. 

I don’t understand these thrill seekers.  If you want to be a thrill seeker…try parenting.  There is nothing quite like trying to get a family of 6 ready for school, after having been up all night with a one month old new born.  This makes roller coasters look like nap-time. 

After we had ridden enough spinning rides to make a figure skater sick, I suggested we go look for a place to take it easy and where we could take turns spewing into the fly infested trash receptor.  This brought us near the local “Arcade” area.  There standing before us…was the king of all arcade amusement games…the infamous “Whack-A-Mole.” Upon spotting the mighty ring of Whack-A-Mole games…the oldest and most mature of the three of us stated….”I challenge you both to a game of Whack-A-Mole… Who’s in?”

We entered into the gaming area…each of us selecting one of the “Whack-A-Mole” games that formed a ring around an overly under-enthused high school student worker, standing on a platform in the middle of the circle.

He chirped away, in his non-expressive, monotone, Midwestern accent…“Step right up…try your hand at Whack-A-Mole…challenge your friends…high score wins…a winner every time…only 15 minutes until my shift is over…”

Despite my recently acquired dizzy spell…I was able to accurately take out my sickly aggression on the heads of the little plastic rodents.  One by one, the moles would pop up…and I would whack them back down.  Here a mole…whack!...there a mole…Whack…everywhere a mole whack!.  I don’t think I missed a single mole. 

“Congratulations…you win…here is a stuffed Wile E. Coyote that you can carry around the park for the rest of the day, while trying to act masculine…good luck with that…I am outta here,” announced the pimple faced pubescent carnival worker.

As we finished our day at the park, I learned he was right.  There is something that is just not right about buckling in a stuffed cartoon doll in the roller coaster seat next to you…while humming “My Buddy and Me…”

I couldn’t help the humming…it just popped into my head like a bad song that you just can’t forget.
I think it was Rick Warren who referred to life being like a Whack-A-Mole game. Sin rises up…we whack it down.  A problem arises…we whack it down.  In the same capacity, “World leaders are like the moles in a Whack-A-Mole game…they just keep popping up and God just keeps hammering them down.”  That resonates with me, perhaps because of my championship Whack-A-Mole run…or perhaps, because it sure seems to be the way that it is. 

In some capacities these world leaders look much the same…power hungry, greedy, ruthless, self-centered…caring only about doing whatever it is that they “want” to do.  Daniel chapter 11 has something to say about that.  We find in this passage, a great amount of detail that expands the visions that Daniel has already had in Chapters 7-9.  In fact the detail is absolutely astounding.  One of the noticeable elements that we find all throughout Daniel is the character of the leaders.  Here in these verses we find the leaders who are all about building themselves up…doing whatever it is that they desire…i.e. Dan. 11:36. We see it in Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, the King of the North and the King of the south.  In fact, we see it in world leaders and rulers in modern history as well…in the likes of Stalin, or Hitler…and perhaps even more recently in some of our current world leaders. 

We tend to emulate those who we follow.  Who are you emulating? Who are you following? Don’t just be another “mole” that looks like all of the others, that God has to whack back down into place.  Perhaps it is time for us to start emulating someone who is unlike any other.  Perhaps it is time to emulate Jesus.