Saturday, August 21, 2021


When I was in high school there was a brainless trend exploding through the ranks of post pubescent boys whose prefrontal cortexes had yet to be fully developed. 

Travis, a fellow 9th grade buddy, came up to me and exclaimed, “Hey Ole! Check this out!” as he projected his left fist in front of my nose to reveal a red circle on the back of his hand.  The spot was red, swollen and even seemed to be weeping some translucent cream colored excrement.

“Wow! What did you do?”

“I got branded!”

“How? Why?”

“Dykoff and I did it together…we both got one!”

“How? Why?” I asked again.

“We used a cigarette lighter…you know…from the ash tray in your car. We pushed it in…it heated up…and then we took it and pressed it against our skin! Cool huh!?”

“Huh? Why?”

“Why not!?...You should do it too! That would be so cool!”

“I don’t think so.” 

Incredibly, as the days and weeks went on, I began to see more and more people with these round burn marks appearing on their hands and arms.  Astoundingly, even some girls began revealing their own orbital wounds.

I remember seeing Travis’ hand, 4 years later, as we graduated…burn mark still there.  The reality is that scar may still be evident today, a permanent brand…to constantly remind him of his own stupidity. 

It is believed that branding was first used thousands of years ago.  The ancient Norse used a word for a burning piece of wood…brandr…which meant “to burn,” which is where we even get our English word, “brand.”  Yet, forms of branding existed far before that.  Even ancient Israelites had forms of branding…not necessarily with fire, iron and sticks…but with blue tassels.   Numbers 15, speaks of tying blue tassels to their garments.  These tassels were symbols of royalty.  It showed that these people…were a “royal people…a royal priesthood,” and when they looked upon the tassels…they were to remember to obey the one to whom they belonged…God almighty. 

Today we are infiltrated with “brands,”…golden arches, multi colored “G”, a bitten apple, a gold bowtie on the front of our vehicles; the list goes on seemingly forever.  Brands mark belonging.  My phone belongs to a company who likes to taste fruit and then cast away the remnants.  My coffee comes from some mythical siren calling me with the sweet aroma of dark roast.  Major brands are unmistakable…recognizable in a single glance.

What is it then…that reveals my faith? Is it my love for others? Maybe…I hope so.  Is it my kindness? Maybe…I hope so.  But there is one image that reveals my deep convictions…one act that demonstrates who I belong to….Baptism.  Baptism is the branding of the new life that I have received in Christ.  Baptism tells the world…I belong to Jesus…I belong to the Savior…I belong to the Life Giver.  I have been branded…I belong to Jesus. My baptism is a reminder of the new life Christ has given me…much like a small circular burn is a reminder of high school stupidity. 

May we come to be branded…belonging to Christ.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

 I Can’t Wait!


“I can’t wait!”

These are words that I frequently hear, like a skipping vinyl record, from the mouth of my 15 year old son. 

 “I can’t wait for Saturday!”

“I can’t wait for deer hunting!”

“I can’t wait to go camping!”

I can’t wait until my new white shoes arrive!”

“I can’t wait until my new black shoes arrive!”

“I can’t wait until my new blue shoes arrive!”

“I can’t wait until I get my driver’s license.” It is strange how I do not share his enthusiasm.

 “I can’t wait until football starts!”

“I can’t wait until football is over!”

“I can’t wait until supper!”

They are not bad words…yet I find myself resistant to their implications, especially in the midst of our, instant gratification oriented, society and our Burger King minded, “My way, right away,” generation.

My answer to my son is usually… “Well…you are going to have to wait…”

I too have found myself in the midst of great anticipation.  I remember, vividly, the night before my wedding.  I didn’t sleep a bit as the day grew closer with each passing minute.  I lay awake in bed anticipating the next day when this girl that I had come to know so well and I would be married!

My life has never been the same since.

I remember anticipating the birth of our first child.  As each day would pass, the waiting grew more difficult, especially by the 7th day past the due date.

My life has never been the same since.

Now, I mostly anticipate each and every morning of my life…because…with each morning comes a fresh cup of coffee…and a delicious breakfast.

Anticipation is actually very healthy.  Anticipation gives us something to hope for…something to strive toward…something to really LIVE for.

The irony is that in this world, so many things that we strive for and hope for…so many of the things that we anticipate actually leaves us unsatisfied and wanting more.

I think Revelation 21 reveals to us THE PRIZE beyond prizes! This passage gives us something to “really” anticipate!!! This passage reminds me of that great night of sleeplessness as I awaited the union with my bride! This chapter shows to us the beautiful Bride of Christ, His Church, coming into the perfect relationship with the Lamb.  It reveals the great and perfect New Heaven and New Earth, the New Jerusalem.  There is no greater anticipation than to BE WITH GOD!!!


I can’t wait!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

 The Prize


“Step right up! See if you can be the next winner! Swing the hammer, and hit the bell!  Three attempts for $1.”

“Hmmm…I think I could do that.” I thought to myself. I lift weights regularly and I am one of the strongest kids in the entire 7th grade. 

“Hey Matt, I think I want to try this.” I said to the buddy who had brought me to Valley Fair for the day.

“What!? No, way!”

“Sure…I think I can do it!”

“Fine…it’s your dollar.”

I paid the man my dollar…picked up the heavy hammer and heaved it onto the driving pin.  The heavy weight, shot into the air…making it nearly half way up the tower before it came crashing back down.  Two more attempts…two more failures.

“Sorry pal…do you want to try again?”

I walked away with my buddy, Matt…feeling dejected and weak.

It was near this moment that my life trajectory changed.  Not necessary because I didn’t hit the bell…but because of my progression toward manhood. It appeared that as I got older my father had more rigorous work for me to be doing around the house. Thus, in addition to lifting weights, I took to splitting wood.  Over the next 6 years, I split countless cords of wood.  I split oak, ash, poplar, some small elms and even some giant white pines.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but all of this work was preparing me for something amazing!

Midway through my college career, I was walking those same streets of Valley Fair with someone far more attractive than my buddy Matt…I was with the prettiest girl ever to set foot on a roller coaster.  As we walked past the sledge hammer, bell tower, “ringy thingy”…I had to stop. I felt compelled to prove myself.  I felt drawn to win a prize for this girl (the girl that I would one day marry…though at the time she did not yet know it).

“Step right up! See if you can be the next winner! Swing the hammer and hit the bell! Three attempts for $5.”

“FIVE DOLLARS!” I thought. “That is some inflation! What happened to the $1?”

“I would like to give a shot.” I said…believing that, not only would Sarah be impressed with my great feat of strength, but also my great wealth of plopping down $5 to win her something real nice.

“Ok, buddy…here’s the hammer…good luck!”

I took the hammer…and I imagined the impact platform transform into a giant block of the knottiest white pine known to mankind…I heaved the hammer over my head and exploded with my full force.  I gritted my teeth and I even growled like an Olympic shot putter. The hammer met the platform, and the lights on the tower climbed. The lights climbed over half way.  The lights climbed over 75% of the way. The lights climbed to the top, and the bell rang!  Winner!

I won!

All of that work!  All of that training, and it paid off!

The pimple-faced, Valley Fair worker congratulated me and handed me an inflatable pool toy in the shape of a hammer.


Well, that was a rip off.  I inflated the pool toy and handed it to Sarah, “Here I won this for you.”

“Thanks…What am I supposed to do with this?”

“I don’t know…don’t drown, I guess.”

The prizes are flying around like crazy right now with the culmination of the Tokyo Olympics in full swing.  All of these amazing athletes who have trained for years are winning their prize. I can’t help but wonder when they get home…do they ask, “Now, what am I supposed to do with this?”

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the prize of winning an Olympic Gold Medal is no small feat.  Yet, I am convinced that there is a prize beyond prizes awaiting those who have put their faith in Jesus.  Yet, we train for these earthy prizes, often forgetting the immeasurable prize that awaits those who follow Christ.  Paul contrasts this very reality in Philippians 3. He even says that he runs in such a way as to get “The Prize.” His prize is not a crown of olive branches or a gold medal.  His prize is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  His prize is to be with Christ forever.

May we see the prize of Christ and press on toward THAT goal!