Saturday, July 18, 2020


Reflecting back on the recent July 4th weekend I have come to realize that there are many dangers that can arise during these holiday weekends.

·        Explosive fireworks
·        Explosive family interactions
·        Congested highways
·        Congested waterways
·        Potato Salad left too long in the sun
·        Unattended campfires
·        Waterskiing

Just to name a few.

Back in high school and college, my brothers and I used to do a fair bit of waterskiing.  Incidentally…it is a lot easier to stay above water on Minnesota lakes…in the winter…though the boat goes much slower. We were not great water-skiers…but we weren’t bad.

Thus, every year, if I can, I like to try and go once a summer. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity for the past two summers, but during this recent holiday weekend my opportunity arose when my brother brought his boat up to my parents’ lake cabin for the weekend. I have come to learn that I pretty much have ONE chance to get out of the water.  If I fail…you can just about stick a fork in me because I am DONE! I intentionally waited until evening when the water was calm and there was less activity on the water…then I went out.  I put the ski on my left foot as I have always done and dropped into the water.  I took hold of the rope in my hands with my usual cross grip and gave my brother the green light to hit the throttle.  Piece of cake…I drug a short distance and was just pulling out of the water when the tow-rope handle snapped in two.  I would like to think that the handle must have been in a weakened state…as opposed to any increase in size since my last skiing endeavor…but only God really knows that. 

As I sank back into the water…I pretty much knew it was over as I felt my left hamstring lock up and say things to me like…”I hate you! I hate you! Why are you doing this to me?”

“Quiet!” I said back…“This isn’t over!”

As my brother circled around with the broken rope, I took the two broken handles…one in each hand and said, “Let’s try this again.”

“Really?” he said.

“Yes!” I said.

“No.” My hamstring said.

Attempt number two brought in the same result, the handle broke again, only this time a part of which remained in my hand. Failed.

I should have stopped there.  But I didn’t.  My pride would not let me. We went and borrowed a neighbor’s tow rope and went back out. If my hamstring would have had arms…I am quite certain that it would have been punching me in the face saying, “Stop! Stop! Listen to me! You are going to regret this!”

“Quiet you!...What do you know? You are just a hamstring!”

I managed to get out of the water 3 different times…but because of the incredible weakened state of my left hamstring…all I could do was skim across the water on my one ski and backside, screaming, “Stand up! Stand up! You wimpy foolish hamstring!”

“No way! I am not going to do it.” The selfish muscle replied.

No matter what I tried…I had no strength left in the left leg…to simply stand up on the ski. Finally…with my pride crushed and my tail between my legs…I quit.

“I told you so.” said my hamstring.

I came to realize…that in some ways…my time has passed. However, an interesting contrast to the weekend, I that I was able to help my son learn to water-ski for the first time.

I am reminded of how the old passes on to the new.  The old does not become invalid or worthless…but rather has its purpose fulfilled in the new.  Much like how God’s Old Covenant with Moses…pointed to…the New Covenant of Christ.  The Old Covenant…did not become invalid…or no longer valuable…on the contrary…it was fulfilled with the coming of the New Covenant.  Certainly, we are no longer “ruled” by the Old Covenant…now we are driven by the New Covenant…a covenant of grace! In Acts 15, we find this very topic coming to the forefront of the New Testament Church…and the Jewish Council.  They must find the truth for themselves…did Jesus come to abolish the Law…or to fulfill it? What does fulfilling the Law even mean?

How does the Old point to the New…and how does the New gain strength from the Old? Great questions to wrestle with.

Now…if my old hamstring will ever forgive me and help me to learn to walk new again…

Saturday, July 11, 2020

I Don't Know

On a recent hot day our family sat on our deck enjoying our ice cream sandwiches.  The beauty of ice cream sandwiches as opposed to ice cream cones…is that ice cream sandwiches contain added emulsifiers to keep the ice cream and chocolate from melting and making a huge mess!  I have become convinced that the more preservatives I eat the more money I will save my family in funeral costs. “Wow he looks great!” “Yeah, the funeral home hardly had to do anything…they think that he ate enough ice cream sandwiches and Twinkies to keep him looking this good for the next 20 years.

I am left to personally conclude that if Kenny Rogers had eaten more ice cream sandwiches he may not have needed so much cosmetic surgery.

I watched my children as they finished their cold treats, and then witnessed half of them take the wrappers from their hands and just drop them onto the surface of the deck.

“Hey what’s the deal with that?”

“I was going to take care of it when I went inside.” said one.

“What did I do wrong?” said the other.

“Seriously?” I questioned. “You just dropped your wrapper on the deck.”


“Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?...What do you know?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t you care that you just threw the garbage on the floor?”

“It’s not the floor…it’s the deck”

“You know what I mean!”

“I don’t know.”

“Is that where it belongs?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let me help you…it doesn’t belong on the deck…it belongs in the garbage…why would you just drop it there.”

“I don’t know…that’s what I do in my bedroom.”

“What!? Why would you do that?? wait…don’t tell me…let me guess…You don’t know.”

“I guess.”

Here’s the thing. We all have areas in our lives that we care about. Likewise, we also all have areas in our lives where we just don’t care. I don’t like littering.  It bothers me.  Yet, if you looked at the floor in my garage, you would think that I had an odd affinity for garbage laying around the floor.  I am a bit of a paradox at times.  But then again…aren’t we all?

I was riding my bike along a country road a number of months ago and I saw that someone had thrown an old TV and a dresser into the ditch.  That really bothered me. I felt frustrated that whoever dumped their trash in the ditch didn’t care enough to treat the land differently.

I find that many of the arguments that I have with my children at home have to do with my efforts to make them care about certain things that they do not seem to care about…like littering on the deck, or respecting other peoples’ things, or listening to their mother…or listening to me.

These are things that I think that they “should” care about. Yet, I cannot make them care. To care can only come from one place…our hearts.  I cannot change the heart of my children.  I want to…but I cannot. They surprise at time when seemingly out of nowhere they do something incredibly thoughtful for someone else. It gives me hope that their hearts are changing. There is only one way that anyone’s  heart can be changed.  They must ask God to do that work within them.

That is true for my children…for me…and for every one of us.

Do we care?

Do we want to care?

In Acts 14:19-28, we find Paul and Barnabas do an amazing thing in my eyes.  They go back to the newly planted churches that they have just help get started.  Their commissioning work is done…they have been a witness…they have shared the Gospel…they have planted a number of churches on their way. I can’t help but question…why do they go back?  The simple answer I see here is…because they care.  They care for the people in those communities and in those churches. It is not just a job to them…it is not just about numbers…it is about people…and caring for those people.

Holy Spirit…help me to care…like Paul and Barnabas…help each of us to care, like these men.

Saturday, July 4, 2020


In 1992 I got my first “real” job.  Certainly, I had found employment before this time, but all of my previous opportunities were odd and end jobs like mowing a lawn for a local Veterinarian, who paid me with buckets of “fertilizer”… “Hey…that there bucket comes from a sheep…that is worth a pretty penny…don’t go ‘wasting’ it all in one place.” Additionally, my brother and I worked for a number of area farmers, usually “throwing bales” of hay…seemingly, on the hottest day of the summer. 
Despite literally running from bale to bale and working as fast as possible…each farmer would encourage us with the same lecture at lunch time.  “Well…that wasn’t too bad…but after you finish your dry bologna sandwich, we can go out in the really hot weather and hit the other field…you should know what you are doing now…so we can really work fast!” 
“Boy thanks Mr. Farmer for the bologna sandwich and the pickled pig’s feet…by the end of summer, this .50 cents per hour will allow me to put new tires on my bicycle that I rode to your farm…and now get to ride home…in the sweltering heat…with my brother riding behind me on the banana seat!
This new job…was a real job! I was hired as Gas Jockey at a full service fueling station!  Now I was paid minimum wage to run out to the gas pumps in 90 plus degree heat…and or…-30 degrees below zero to fill people's cars up with gas…check their oil and air filters and wash their windshields.  The customers didn’t always appreciate their windshields being washed with a block of blue ice frozen to the end of the washing wand.  My bigger concern was inadvertently leaving my frozen fingers stuck beneath a wiper.
As I filled out the paper work (W-4 form), on that first day I called my dad to help me understand the language of the tax code.  He is an expert at translation…likely due to his expansive experiences while growing up in the 60’s.  He knows and understands the meaning of some pretty keen phrases like, “far out” and “it’s a gas.”
“Hey Dad…it’s your favorite son!”
“Oh…Hi Rory…how are you doing?”
“Uh…No Dad…it’s Ryan…”
“Oh…I thought you said you were…”
“Never mind that…I have a question for you…about filling out my tax forms on my new job!”
“Oh, that’s a drag,” He said, “Uncle Sam is going to Bogart all of your lettuce.”
“Keep a cool head…when you hit retirement it will all be Marvy.”
“You really don’t have much choice…you gotta let them have their bread or the Fuzz will be knocking down your door.”
“Huh?”…”Dad…I just need to know how many ‘dependents’ to claim on my W-4.
“Oh…well that is easy…you claim zero…I already have you claimed as a dependent…so you can’t…”
“What?? This doesn’t seem fair…I have a new job now…I am independent!”
“Really? Are you planning on buying your own food, cooking your own meals,  and getting your own apartment?”
“No…I am only 16.  I want to be "16 year old independent"…you know where I get to do what I want…when I want…and you can’t tell me what to do…but, when I need something like gas in my vehicle, I want to depend on you!”
“Put in zero…or you will find your independent mattress in the front yard.”
I claimed zero.
Today is Independence Day…and I cannot help but find the irony in that as we celebrate our independence…we are still so dependent. 
Let’s be honest…we (as a nation) are dependent upon things like foreign oil…free trade…and military security.  These are not necessarily bad things to be dependent on. Additionally, we are in many ways dependent upon our government…local, state and federal.  We are dependent on our cell phones and our internet and the power grid.  Again, none of these are necessarily evil things.
However, I would challenge us to consider…that perhaps we should place ourselves in the dependence of an even greater authority.  I believe that God actually desires for us to be dependent upon him…not as some craze ego trip…but because of the intimate relationship that dependence creates.  When we are truly dependent upon someone…intimacy is created.
In Acts 13:44-14:18, we find that Paul and Barnabas continue on with their first missionary journey.  Along their way they encounter great revival, strong persecution, acceptance, rejection…but most of all an incredible and healthy dependence on the Holy Spirit.