Saturday, April 24, 2021

 Oh!...You're Obese!!!

There are a variety of reasons that people avoid going to the doctor.  Some people prefer to not be touched in awkward ways.  Others hold strong resentment to robes that cover absolutely nothing on their back 50%.  Still more, prefer to not have to answer difficult questions…of which awkward options are endless.

Personally, my hesitancy rests in my strong resentment to the public weigh in.  “Ryan, the doctor will see you now…right this way…now if you will just step on this scale…Hey everyone! Ryan is about to step on this scale!...Yes this one right here in the middle of the hallway…Hey everyone!  Look!...Wow!...You’ve put on some weight haven’t you?  Time to lay off of the cookies, huh?...Now you can just wait in this room for 45 minutes and think about how many cookies you ate yesterday, and what you will eat when you go home after this appointment…I will be back in a few minutes to ridicule your blood pressure.”

One of my greatest pet peeves is what is known as the BMI (Body Mass Index) chart.  According to this “valuable” data chart…I could weigh 140lbs and stand 6’2 and be healthy.  Really!!?? I don’t think so!

Eleven years ago, my in laws gave our family a Wii, along with it was given Wii Fit.  This was the exercise “game” that was designed to trick you into becoming healthy while playing games on your TV.  Perhaps it was a hint to what I was about to learn on my own.  The family took turns stepping onto the Wii board and allowing it to measure our BMI.  After Sarah and the kids had gone through the process of entering their data…and stepping onto the board…and getting their results…the words, “Dad! It’s your turn!,” echoed between my ears, like a steel bearing in a metal coffee can.

“No…I don’t think so…I’m good.”

“Oh…come on!...You have to!...We all did it…and we all made our own Mii characters too!”  After much coaxing, I reluctantly conceded.  I entered my height…my age…eye color…shoe size…and mother’s maiden name and stepped onto the board.

The machine began talking to me through the TV speakers…“Stand Still…Measuring….Measuring…Measuring…OH!... YOU’RE OBESE!!!”

My little Mii character doubled in size on the screen before my eyes as I rebutted, “Wait! What!!! I’ll show you obese!”  I prepared to throw the new machine through the old TV…thankfully…my frugal nature took over and I went to be alone and sulk.

As embarrassing as that moment was…it served as a wake-up call.  It shook angered me…it got my attention and it was at that moment that I changed.  I changed my activity, and I changed my diet…and I am now significantly lighter than I was then.

Revelation 8 and 9, tend to be a difficult and sorrowful passage to read.  We may even find ourselves afraid as we internalize the great judgments that are to come.  In these pages of the last book of the New Testament we find incredible pain, death and torment…we find hunger, and thirst and earthquakes.  God is literally shaking the earth.  I think that He is trying to get the attention of the world…He STILL wants mankind to turn to Him.  God must act severely to sin…yet, we see the love and grace and yearning for mankind to repent…and give their lives to Jesus.  Sadly, the powerful final verses paint a sorrowful picture.  “The rest of mankind…still did not repent.”

May we be shaken today! May the Lord shake our world…get our attention…and then…MAY WE REPENT!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

 Who Can Stand?

My son is a freshman in high school and stands 6’1” tall.  I am 45 years old and hold a one inch height advantage…when I stand up straight…which is less often than when I was a freshman in high school myself.  Isaac has been lifting weights regularly and working hard in all areas of his athleticism…so much so, that he recently called me out.

“Dad…I think I can take you.”

“Huh?...What was that?...You say you want to take me?...Like you are going to take me out and buy me a coffee and a donut?...Why what a nice boy I have?...Yes son…I would love to have you buy me a coffee and a donut!...When do you want to go?”

“No dad…I think I can ‘take’ you…as in…I want to meet you on a wrestling mat…and take it to you!...Take you down…beat you!”

“Wait…so…there is no donut and no coffee?”

“Nope…just me…taking it to you.”

“Let me get this straight…You…who have 4 years of ‘elementary’ wrestling experience, and…I…who have 13 years of competitive wrestling experience, including college…not to mention 4 years of volunteer coaching experience and 9 years of paid high school coaching experience...and you think that you have what it takes.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because you are 45…and I am 15.”

“You’re on…the loser buys coffee and donuts.”

“No way!…I have no money.”

It took us a few weeks to find the time and space to get onto the mats.  I will spare you of the painful details of what transpired…you can ask him yourself...but, I would expect that you may hear him say things like…

 “Wow! He moves fast for a 45 year old.”

“Crazy arm drags!”

“Oh, the pain!”

“My nose bled.”

“I was really hoping to take him down.”

Or perhaps…“He graciously let me have a point.”

I would be willing to bet that most every human being who has ever lived has experienced both victory and defeat…both, the highs of dominance and the humility of lowliness. Each of us, at some point in our lives…need to endure a nice slice of humble pie.  I have endured plenty of bitter slices myself…including one from this same son of mine, who totally surprised me as a four year old, and full on tackled me from behind during one of our backyard football games. 

Despite the pain and bitterness of defeat, I think humility is a better place to be than in the place of pride.  At the end of Revelation 6, we find a group of powerful prideful people, suddenly aware of the power of God…and they cry out in fear and humility…the chapter ends with a phrase that is stated while under the wrath of the Lamb…”Who can stand?” The simple answer is no one.  No one can stand.  There is no one righteous enough to stand under the wrath of the Lamb.  Yet…what we find in chapter 7…is that the love of the Lamb…seals those who follow him. Picture the love of the Lamb…acting as a shield…to the wrath of the very same Lamb.  It is a paradox.  It is a mystery…yet it is true.  As a believer I have been sealed…protected from the wrath of the Lamb, by the very Spirit of the Lamb.

Who can stand?

Not me…unless I have been covered by the seal of the Lamb!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

 Better Way

They say that necessity is the mother of all inventions.  I don’t fully understand this concept…because I feel like I personally…“need”…a great deal of things…but, as of yet, I have not personally invented anything that is patent worthy.  Over the years I have spent many hours walking through the halls of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, (my beautiful wife’s…and Henry Ford’s home town). This massive brick structure filled with antiquities is one of my favorite historical places to visit, not just for the historical relics, but also for the plethora of inventions that have been placed on display.  While walking the grounds, you can find original, as well as replicas, of great created items like Edison’s light bulb, Gutenberg’s printing press, steam engines, telegraphs, firearms, automobiles and so much more. 

These inventions are great examples of how human beings strive to make things easier.  Firearms make hunting easier.  Light bulbs make seeing at night easier.  Automobiles make getting to places easier. Telegraphs…make understanding Morse Code…about as difficult as ever…but…you get the idea. 

Struggle is in some capacities a way of life.  That is why we work so hard to invent.  When we suffer…we work to end our suffering.  As we grow older and more mature, we find newer and better ways to do things. 

I remember working at the cabinet shop while I was in college.  At the end of every day we were required to clean the shop.  On my first day in the shop I took to the sweeping…creating a large pile in the center of the shop and then went looking for a dustpan or a shovel to pick up the mess.  I could not find one…anywhere.  I proceeded to use a thin scrap piece of ¼“ plywood and struggled to get all of the sawdust, wood shavings, scrap and dirt lifted off of the floor and into the garbage can.  As I suffered at my lot…the shop foreman stared at me…shook his head and said… “There is a better way.”

I argued with him…“Hey! I looked for a dust pan and a shovel and I couldn’t find either…so unless you can show me where they are…I don’t think that there is a better way.”

“There is no shovel…there is no dustpan…but there IS a better way!”

“I think, I am managing just fine.”

“No…you are struggling…and this will be you plight every day…until you let me show you the better way.”

“Fine! Oh guru of the better way…show me!”

He calmly took the broom from my hand...pushing what remained of the mess toward a wall.  He pressed a large green button on the wall and the huge dust collection system fired up…he opened a valve on a vertical ductwork chute right in front of him that ran from floor to ceiling and suddenly the entire dust pile that I had created was sucked up the chute and out of sight.

“Oh…there is a better way.”

I believe that God has a better way for us as well.  As humans, we continually attempt to navigate this life and do everything on our own, often acknowledging that there is no better way…than our own way. 

God has a better way…but sometimes…that better way includes suffering.  Revelation 6 is a very challenging passage.  We may read it and wonder…why does God do all of this?  I can’t say that I understand all of God’s intentions…yet, I do believe that I can see his goodness even in these challenging verses.  I can see His way…and it is a better way…than what I could ever invent.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

 Life Saver

As I sit here eating my annual Paczki on this Saturday before Easter, I can’t help but contemplate how this might benefit my life. The delicious, blueberry filled, pastry was baked “fresh” this morning…so I cannot claim that the preservatives will somehow lengthen my lifespan like a 45 year old Twinkie.  Though the sugar was sweet, and exploded with flavor on my tongue, the actual nutritional value will likely not last until lunch.  On an up note…I can confirm that due to the delectable reaction of my tastebuds…my “self initiated Covid Taste Test”…came back negative.  I could perhaps even argue that the fats added around my waist may help prevent me from freezing this next winter…or serve as a life preserver during the upcoming “lake season” of Minnesota. 

Those who know me well, know that any extra buoyancy available to me while in the waters of Minnesota is of great personal value.  I am not a strong swimmer…thus keeping floatation devices near is of great importance to me.  In fact, I am often quick to ensure that there are lifejackets available on my watercraft, pool noodles on the dock, and I don’t stray too far away from the swim platform.

I am not the only one.  The next time you head to a public pool and even some beaches, take a look around…you are likely to see flotation devices at the ready, in case any water emergencies may arise.  I like to be safe…yet, I have begun to notice that our American culture seems to be obsessed with safety.  We look to create and keep everything safe.  We find safety checkpoints at airports, train stations, and courthouses.  We have street signs telling us to use caution, slow down, watch for bumps…we not only have stop signs…but also stop ahead signs.  Perhaps, we will soon have stop ahead, ahead signs.  Need I talk about masks and social distancing?...I didn’t think so.  It is like our world is being filled with life preservers. 

Do I have an issue with it? I don’t know…that is my real issue.  My real issue is…I think that most of the world is drowning in sin…and we have a Life Saver within reach…yet we continue to struggle in the water…until we die.  I find it ironic that with all of our efforts to preserve life…we often miss the most significant Life Preserver.  Mankind works hard to make our earthly lives last as long as possible…sometimes over 100 years, yet, reject the offering to preserve our lives for eternity.

May we come to take an honest look at Easter this year.  May we come to take an honest look at Jesus Christ and make a decision to the question, is Jesus who He says He is? Is He God? Is He the Savior? Is He the way to eternal life? In John 8:12-59 Jesus gives an incredible testimony about who He is…and why He came.  He claims to be God! Is He? That is the question that every person MUST answer! It doesn’t matter what I “think,” or what you “think.” What matters is the answer…Is He?  He says He is…and I have come to believe it to be true. 

I think John 8:24 wraps this proverbial picture well.  Jesus said, “ I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” We are drowning in our sins…and the Life Saver is right there…inviting us to take it…to take Him!

I think this is the year…where we stop swimming…and hold on to the Life Saver!