Saturday, December 24, 2022


My wife made me aware of two occurrences…both similar. My son exclaimed, “Ugh! Why do I do that!? I don’t even WANT to do that!?”

“What are you talking about? You don’t want to do what?”

“Give away all of my money!”

“What do you mean?” She asks.

“I keep giving away all of my money!”

This is a striking statement coming from a young man who is just as frugally minded as both his mother and father.  I have been known to buy several items, use them, only to return them, (note: they are still in like new condition).  For some people, generosity just comes naturally, like my father-in-law.  He was perhaps the most generous man that I have known, constantly giving to those in need, often anonymously.

This situation with my son caused my wife to pause, so she questioned farther. “What do you mean? When are you giving all of your money away?”

“I just did it again! I emptied my wallet and gave all of my cash t Alba…the sponsor child from youth group.”

“Oh! Well, I think that’s great Isaac! But, you said, ‘again,’ when else have you done that?”

“Last September…when those guys from Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge came…I emptied my wallet and gave all I had then too!  I hate that! But I can’t help it! Why do I keep doing that!?”

“Maybe it’s the Lord’s leading…maybe it’s a gifting of the Spirit.”

I don’t share that story to in anyway bring praise to my son.  If anything it ought to bring shame to me, because I tend to resist such responses.  What does strike me is the picture of Jesus.  Jesus gave so much more.  These past few weeks of advent I keep thinking of what Jesus gave up to come to us…to be with us.

Jesus had everything…and he gave it ALL away.  He didn’t just give what was in his wallet…he gave it all.  He gave up his amazing, glorious throne in heaven and, instead,  took up a borrowed feed trough.  He gave up his home to live on this earth without a home.  He left heaven to enter a world where he would know hunger, poverty, pain, suffering, betrayal, thirst and everything else this world promises.

Why? Why was he willing to give it ALL up? Because of love, and because he loves us…you and me…he not only gave it all up (Phil. 2:7)…but then offers everything that he gave up…to us.  He invites us into the full inheritance (2 Cor. 8:9) that one day we can spend eternity with him and without hunger, poverty, pain, suffering, betrayal and thirst.

May you come to see the love that Jesus has for you, and all that he gave up for you because of that love.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Demerit

For hundreds of year teachers have faced numerous challenges in the realm of education.  Educators must navigate the paths of curriculum, relationships and the treacherous uncertainties of classroom management…namely…discipline.  In my experience of educational exhaustion, countless strategies of discipline have been implemented on my behalf.  I have been lectured, yelled at, sent to the principal’s office, hugged, ridiculed, given detention and others…except “paddling.” Interestingly however, I recall that in my physical education teacher’s office there was a residual paddle with names written on it from its history of a disciplinary instrument.  I can only be left to assume that each name written on that paddle represented a backside of a misbehaving junior high school student who needed to be put back into line at some point in the paddle’s storied past.  Fortunately for me, I lived at a time after the allowance of the use of paddles.  Some schools allow the usage of “demerits” as a disciplinary strategy.

A demerit is a tally mark of wrong doing. If you happen to misbehave in class, you would receive a demerit.  If you turn in your assignment late, you receive a demerit.  If you run in the halls or call Alice Allison a name like Acne Alice, you get a demerit.  They just keep adding up.  My wife once received 10 demerits in her high school for passing a note when the entire class was warned that there was to be “NO TALKING.”  In fairness to her…passing a note was not talking. Even so, shame on her…times 10.

I am thankful that I have not kept track of the acts of shame that I have committed in my life.  If I had a light for every act of shame in my life, I’ll bet I could light up the annual Rockefeller Christmas in midtown Manhattan. 

Jesus is the central figure of Christmas.  It’s not Santa Claus or the Grinch.  It is not Mary or Joseph or the shepherds or even the angels. It is Jesus.  Why?  Because this is the moment when God takes the incredible love that he has for the world and gives to it…Jesus, (John 3:16).  Why is that such an act of love? It is because Jesus brings two of the greatest gifts known to mankind.  The first gift is that he takes away our demerits, (1 John 3:5).  He takes away our sins, our shame…our wrong doings.  Yet, there is a second gift…as if the first isn’t great enough.  He also, gives to us…all of HIS merits.  He takes away our yuck and gives to us all of His goodness and righteousness, (Romans 4:24).

May we come to reflect on the real gifts of Christmas this year!

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Hand Warmers

I remember my first year of deer hunting in the Minnesota Northwoods.  November weather in Minnesota is a vacillating conundrum of confusion.  One day you may find yourself sun bathing in 64 degree sunny weather, while the next day you are wondering where you left your wool socks and rabbit fur trapper hat from two days ago.  

A young boy’s first day of deer hunting is an important day in his growth to adulthood, almost as important as the day of his birth or his wedding day.  I remember many of the important days of my life including my 21st birthday, when a bunch of my friends took me out to a local place and we consumed an exorbitant amount of…cheese.

On this first day of progressive manhood, my dad woke both my older brother and I up at 4:00 a.m. and made us start getting dressed right away.

“Hey you two, get up and get dressed.  Be sure to wear warm clothes, it is supposed to be cold and it looks like we got about 10 inches of snow last night.”

“What about breakfast?”

“You don’t need breakfast.”

“But I am hungry”

“Have a bowl of cereal then, but be quick about it.”

I poured some sugarless Wheaties into a Styrofoam bowl followed by the milk which came out of the carton in clumps of icy slush.

After breakfast I pulled on my long underwear which was too small for my legs, followed by three pairs of socks and 2 shirts and some holey blue jeans.  I then donned an old green snowmobile suit covered in patches and holes.  I slid my feet into the barely insulated rubber boots that were 3 sizes too large, which gave me room to grow…too much room to grow, but the extra socks helped to take up the extra space.  I shouldered on an orange vest, an orange hat and some thin orange mittens, and finally stepped out of the camper and into the cold Minnesota forest.  The wind slapped me in the face like an icy wet dish rag.  I sank into the depth of snow and fell forward onto my hands and knees.  My mittens were instantly full of snow and my hands simultaneously became ice cubes.

My dad had packed for me a set of charcoal heated hand warmers and 1 book of matches.

“Light these when you get cold” He directed.

I was cold now, but I waited.  We trudged through the deep snow and my dad dropped me off at my stand.  I crawled up onto the platform while it was still as dark as pitch.  I could not find the matches to light my hand warmers so I waited the 65 minutes until daylight, getting colder each minute.  At daylight I found the matches and began to…attempt the lighting of the charcoal stick for the hand warmer.  I struck match after match trying to light the hard fuel stick only to have each small flame flicker out by the winter wind.  My fingers were stiff with cold and stung like the needling stingers of wasps.  It did not take long before my matches were gone, the entire book…empty.

Sitting there, hopeless and cold, I struggled to know what to do.  After pondering my predicament for a whole 60 seconds or more, I crawled down from my stand and walked to my dad’s stand at about 8:00 in the morning…maybe 90 minutes into the open shooting hours of the opening day. 

“What are you doing!” My dad shouted in a whisper!

“Do you have any more matches?”


“Matches…I need more matches…I can’t get my warmers lit.”

“It’s opening morning!”

“Do you have any matches?”

He tossed me down another book of matches and when I made my way back into my stand, my frozen fingers were finally successful in lighting my charcoal hand warmers…and I was happy…at least my hands were happy.  The rest of me was still cold. 

It wasn’t until later that night, when we got back to the camper and we ate a hot supper of hot dogs, beans and root beer, that the rest of me found some “happiness.” In fact, after my dad lit the camper furnace and I crawled under my sleeping bag I went from happy to something deeper than happy.

Christmas often reminds me of how much our life we spend trying to be “happy.”  I see happiness as being like a hand warmer.  It heats up… it warms our hands…at least for a while.  Yet the rest of our bodies remain cold.  Then the hand warmer wears out and we are left seeking happiness again. 

Joy is different.  Joy is sustaining.  Joy doesn’t burn out.  Joy is deeper than happiness.  Joy is like sliding under the warm covers on a cold Minnesota night, while happiness is trying to warm your entire body with a cup of hot cocoa. 

On that first Christmas the angels appeared and proclaimed, “Good news of great JOY which will be for all the people!” May the depth of that reach you this Christmas! Good news of great JOY! Some of the packages under your tree may bring some happiness this Christmas, but only the Good News of Jesus can bring the Great JOY! Joy can ONLY come from the Spirit of Christ.

May you find Great Joy! This Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2022

 Expected Surprises

I remember when I first became a father. My wife, Sarah, had taken the home test in early June of 2003 and the diagnosis???… “parenthood.”  The condition was confirmed a few days later when Sarah visited her doctor.  We were so excited that later that night we went to supper with my parents at Applebee’s, where we intended to share the good news.  We decided to reveal the surprise by inserting a picture of the ultrasound into a wad of other photos of our recent mission trip to Mexico.  I grinned from ear to ear as I waited for them to come across the ultra sound photo, because I knew that they too would be ecstatic!  I inwardly hoped that in their excitement that Dad would offer to pick up the tab for supper.  They came to the photo.  My mother squealed, “Oh, what is this!  Eeeek! You are having a baby! How wonderful!”

“Congratulations you two!,” my father added, “Here is your half of the bill.”

Nothing could shake our excitement…even having to pay the Applebee’s bill was tolerable.  We knew that things were going to change, but I was convinced that we were going to be the best parents ever.  I had given parental lessons to all kinds of parents through the years, enduring their scowls and bitter looks of resentment as I offered counsel and advice of how “I would do it if I were in their shoes.” Now I was going to prove that not only was I a “know it all,” but also a “do it all.”  I wasn’t worried in the least.


As part of our birthing classes, which apparently new parents are strongly encouraged to attend…and new fathers are required to attend by their “soon to be a mother,” spouse. 

It was at these classes where you learn how to breathe, push, flip and bounce out a baby.  It seemed simple enough…I figured I would let the doctors take the lead…though I was ready to advise if needed…after all, I had taken several night classes on the subject. 

Then one night, the class instructor rolled out a large thick television with a VHS player mounted below.  She began to play countless videos of birthing, mommy care and baby care.  The birthing videos made me a little more nervous…but it was really the “How to take care of your baby” videos that freaked me out.” 

These videos spoke of all of the dangers that lurked in your home; radon, carbon monoxide, bleach, toilet brushes, plastic bags, Lego, Asian lady beetles, dogs, cats, cribs, pillows, bedding, diaper changes, falling chandeliers, car seats, refrigerators, fishing fillet knives, vacuum cleaners and sleep deprived parents shaking their babies…pretty much EVERYTHING that you have in your home is a vessel of death to an infant.  THERE WENT MY PEACE!!!!

I was not afraid of fatherhood…until…I watched those videos!

I was suddenly paralyzed by fear. The expected anticipation of fatherhood was now replaced with expected apprehension. 

I feel similar in other aspects of life, one moment I am ok and feel that I have everything under control and the next my peace has been swiped from me like a shaken Etch-A-Sketch. 

All throughout the Bible, the Lord repeats a promise of a Savior to come.  Yet, in the anticipation of the promised Savior, the world has had to endure the struggles of this life.  Mankind continues to wrestle with fear, hunger, pain, disease and oppression.  In Luke 1, we find that the promise of the Savior is refreshed.  It had been about 400 years since God had last spoken to mankind directly.  In his last message, he promised a prophet was coming.  In Luke 1…after a LONG silence…God delivers on that promise!  It is a promise of hope and peace and joy and love.  It is a promise of Jesus, the Savior.

O come thou long expected peace…thou long expected Jesus and save us from this world of anxiety and oppression!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

 Grass on the Moon


I don’t really believe that Murphy’s Law, (the adage stating that if something can go wrong it will go wrong), but it certainly seems strange to me, how every time I am running late to an event, bad things seem to happen.  It is in times like these that I catch every red light, have to wait for a train, and I get stuck behind the slowest driver in a 50 mile radius.  This happened just this morning as I was driving my daughter to her piano lesson.  I had to wait for EVERY stoplight…YES! ALL THREE!  On top of that, we had to wait for a train…and…since I am the slowest driver in the 50 mile radius…other slow drivers don’t matter. Needless to say…she was late. I blame the stoplights.

Speaking of stoplights…I was reminded recently of my son’s internal conflict with these mechanical, magical, and mysterious traffic controllers.  Apparently, in his younger years, my son Isaac believed that there were little men that would sit inside the stoplights and make them change colors whenever they felt like making the change.  If they wanted one light to stay green for the entire day, they could.  Or in the case of my trip across town, the little men living inside the stoplights could sadistically turn every light red making me wait…and eventually late.  I am relieved to know that my son now knows that little men don’t operate the traffic lights...its aliens.

Children believe strange things.  As a toddler, this same son of mine was deathly afraid that the bathtub drain would suck him in with the draining water to live in the sewers with the rats and crocodiles. When his mother would finish his bath, she would be sure to remove him from the tub before draining the water or he would scream in ghastly fear!  I, on the other hand, would purposely leave him in the tub and pull the drain plug.  This served two purposes. Firstly, It was funny to watch him scream breathlessly. Secondly, the boy needed to learn to toughen up. You never know what life will throw at you, and you need to be ready for that random whirlpool in the ocean.  Perhaps Captain Nemo would have survived through that whirlpool if his dad had pulled the drain plug while he was still in the tub?

I just learned today that my oldest daughter had the same irrational fear of draining water. Perhaps she never spoke of this fear…for another fear…of her dad pulling the plug while she was still in the tub.  I am offended. How mean does she think I am?

My daughter Carissa could handle the draining water just fine…it was the fear of being sucked into the vacuum toes first that consumed her dreams.

When I was a child, I believed that every time that I lied to my parents that I would get a black spot on my heart.  Each black spot would then work at eating through my heart like a worm through an apple, and once the black spot got all the way through the heart…I would die. I don’t know what was more concerning…the black spot eating through my heart…or the number of black spots eating through my heart!  I wonder what made me believe this stuff?  Oh…I know!’s because…THAT IS WHAT MY MOTHER TOLD ME!!!!

My wife believed that if she got any wrong answers, or was not fast enough with the flash cards in elementary school that her teacher would be angry with her and wouldn’t love her any more.  So to hide her imperfection…she lied and said that she couldn’t “see the cards.”  Hmm…I wonder if she got black spots on her heart too?

My little brother once saw grass on the moon with a little cardboard and plastic telescope.  Ha Ha! What a fool!  Oh Boy! I can’t tell you how my older brother and I laughed at him!  My little brother was always so stubborn and irrational.  He adamantly held to his claim that he saw grass on the moon. He wouldn’t even recant the claim under the threat of a “swirly.” Ironically, he now works in the field of science and wears a white coat to work.  I don’t know if he still believes that there is grass on the moon or not, but there is a chance…a white coat can’t fix everything. 

In Romans 12:2, Paul speaks of our need to have our “minds renewed.”  We need to think differently. In fact, I think Paul understood this transformation incredibly well, perhaps better than anyone.  In 1 Corinthians 13, as Paul is speaking on love, he inserts a powerful statement on transformational thinking.  In verse 11 he says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

I am so glad that I no longer think like a child. Oh…did I mention that it is only 6 weeks until Christmas! I wonder what Santa will bring me this year?

May we come to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us to transformational thinking and a renewing of our minds.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

 What’s in it for Me?

 I have come to believe that parenting is one of the top 100 hardest jobs in the world…and it monetarily pays the least.  This is not to say that there are some aspects of parenting that are, in fact, quite simple and easy.  For example, the other day my son asked me, “Dad, will you buy me supper from Dominos Pizza?”

“No! Your mom has supper on the table…like right now…sit down and eat!” 

That was one of the simplest parenting moments in the history of parenting. 

However, there are other aspects of parenting that are much more difficult...i.e. “Mom, where do babies come from?”

Boy, am I glad that sentence began with, “Mom!”

Just this morning, Sarah and I were mandating that our children get off of their screens and go hiking in the north woods with us…all day.

“Ugh! I don’t want to go!” argued my youngest daughter.

“You need to go.” My wife calmly rebutted.

“Why!? I don’t want to go! Why do I even need to? Why do you even care if I go? AND BESIDES…WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME anyway?”

That can be a difficult question. “What is in it for me?”

My wife, however, is much more brilliant than I and immediately responded with the truth, “You need the fresh air, it is good for you.  You need the exercise, it is good for you. You need to get your face off of your brain sucking screen, it will be good for you.”

“So what! I don’t need any of that stuff!”

“Well, we will be bringing snacks to eat in the woods.”

“Ok…I’ll go.”


I would never have thought that such a simple offer could be so motivating.  That is until I saw the snacks…2 kinds of trail mix, meat sticks, dried jerky, summer sausage…AND…PEANUT M&M’S!!!

The psychology of motivation is amazing.  It doesn’t happen very often, but there are times when I slow down enough to reflect on what keeps me going.  What motivates me to continue the battle?  What motivates me to keep up the battle of parenting, working, living, cleaning the house…etc?  What keeps me continuing to testify to the grace of Jesus? I think that Paul helps me to understand the answer in what he writes in 2 Cor. 5:11-6:2. 

There can be many motivators in life.  Fear can be a huge motivator.  Likewise, food can be a magnificent motivator. Yet, what I believe that Paul points to in this passage is the most powerful of motivators…love.  Here we see the love of Christ compels us…AND…our love for Christ…also compels us.  It is like a double edged sword that motivates on both sides!

May we come to be compelled to testify of the grace of Christ.  May we be compelled to love others.  May we be compelled…because of Christ’s love for us…and our love for Him.


Saturday, October 15, 2022

 Camping: Revisited


I really enjoy camping, always have.  I love the preparation, execution, and the clean up! Who wouldn’t?

Most of my camping trips consist of the following…or some combination thereof.

5:00 a.m. Wake up.

5:05 a.m. Start Coffee.

5:06 a.m. Sit down and wait for coffee to finish.

5:15 a.m. Get up and pour a cup of the finished coffee.

5:16 a.m. Sit back down to drink the coffee…just one cup.

5:17 a.m. Fall asleep in recliner with coffee in hand.

5:45 a.m. Wake up because coffee spilled in your lap.

5:46 a.m. “Hey kids…we are going camping, we need to get everything together and hit the road by 8:00 a.m., get out of bed…let’s go!”

6:00 a.m. Load 5 sleeping bags for 6 people.

6:15 a.m. Put all food into a cooler.

6:30 a.m. Get the tent down from the attic.

6:45 a.m.  Load 5 camping chairs for 6 people.

7:00 a.m. “Hey kids…we are going camping, we need to get everything together and hit the road by 8:00 a.m., get out of bed…let’s go!”

7:15 a.m. Load 5 pillows for 6 people.

7:30 a.m. Set wallet on top of the car so that you don’t forget it.

7:45 a.m. Load everything else into vehicle.

8:00 a.m.  “Hey kids…we are going camping, we need to get everything together and hit the road by 8:00 a.m., get out of bed…let’s go!”

8:05 a.m.  Jump start vehicle because the doors were left open too long while loading and the battery is dead.

8:10 a.m. Sit in car and honk until all others arrive into the vehicle and share words of affection to their loving father and husband.

12:10 p.m. Arrive at campsite only to find that the site is still occupied.

3:00 p.m. Reach for your wallet in your back pocket to pay for the campsite.

3:01 p.m. Empty the entire vehicle looking for lost wallet.

3:02 p.m. Receive a phone call from stranger saying, “Hey I found your wallet on the highway.”

3:03 p.m. Dig through the vehicle, collecting all of the lost coins to pay for the campsite.

3:15 p.m. Spend the next hour trying to remember how to set up the tent.

4:15 p.m. Realize that the tent has been set up incorrectly and start over.

5:15 p.m. Finish setting up the tent…only to realize that you are missing one pole.

5:30 p.m. Fashion a willow branch to substitute for tent pole.

5:35 p.m. Use a rock to hammer in the tent stakes.

5:36 p.m. Bite your tongue because you smashed your finger with rock.

5:45 p.m. Answer your wife’s question about where you put the cooler. “I left it in the kitchen.”

5:46 p.m. Answer your wife’s question about what you are going to eat. “We will have to cook the canned foods I guess.”

5:46 p.m. Answer your wife’s question about where the can opener is. “Ummm…in the kitchen drawer?”

5:46 p.m. Answer your wife’s question about how the can will be open. “A hammer and a screwdriver.”

5:46 p.m. Answer your wife’s question about where the hammer is. “A rock and a screwdriver.”

6:00 p.m. Begin to build a fire…without matches…because you are not willing to admit to anyone that you also forgot to bring matches.

6:15 p.m. Begin to cry as you hands develop blisters from rubbing sticks together.

6:20 p.m. Ask your neighbor campers to let you borrow some matches while still in tears.

6:21 p.m. Listen to them laugh at your ineptness.

7:00 p.m. Finally get fire lit.

7:05 p.m. Sit on the ground and eat lukewarm baked beans, while 5 family members sit in camping chairs.

7:10 p.m. Scramble into tent because of torrential downpour.

7:15 p.m. Inflate air mattress and go to sleep…without a pillow…or a sleeping bag.

3:00 a.m. Wake up to a deflated air mattress

3:05 a.m. Look for leak in air mattress

3:15 a.m. Quit looking, sigh, and sleeplessly lay on your back for the next 3 hours.

6:15 a.m. Ponder about how you are going to get your 46 year old body off of the cold hard ground to start a fire…in the rain…without matches and cook your breakfast of baked beans…without a can opener.

6:16 a.m. Groan

6:17 a.m. Allow the rain water to drip on your face from the leaky tent roof. 

6:18 a.m. Groan some more.

7:00 a.m. Head back home, to your own bed, your own pillow, and your own can opener. 

12:00 p.m. Arrive back home.  Pitch tent…into the trash. Promise yourself that you will never camp again as you conclude that you prefer your permanent dwelling. 

I do enjoy camping, but it doesn’t matter whether it is for one night or one week, I find that I long to get off of the hard ground and back into the comfort of my own bed in my own home.  Paul gives us a similar picture in 2 Cor. 5:1-10.  Here he describes the temporary nature of our tents (human bodies), that we live in and the promise of something better.  God promises a permanent dwelling that we will get to enjoy forever in relationship with Him! Meanwhile we groan, as our bodies ache and age. We yearn to be with Him forever!

May the Lord give us a new perspective as we learn to get our eyes off of what we see and onto that which we cannot see.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Menacing Mike


The Apostle Paul speaks of being, “Pressed but not crushed.” I have been both pressed…and crushed…because…I played high school football.  More accurately, I played football through 9th grade…which though, is technically “high school,” is essentially glorified middle school football.  As a 9th grader I stood 6’1” and weighed a meager 135 pounds.  Yet, due to my height, I was placed on the offensive line as the right guard…next to the only player on our team who actually could be classified as your typical offensive lineman…Menacing Mike Mayer.  Mike was our center…and nose tackle.  He stood 6’2” and weighed over 300 lbs.  At the beginning of each play he would snap the ball to our quarterback and then stand there as defensive players bounced off of him like kangaroos on pogo sticks.

Menacing Mike was the kind of guy that everyone wanted on their team and no-one wanted to play against.  Playing next to Mike was great…until…it wasn’t.  It happened one late October Tuesday.  The 9th grade Indians of Wadena MN, met the Eagles of New York Mills.  The two mediocre teams were battling for gridiron glory when it occurred.  I saw the gold number 34 on the bright blue jersey streak through the hole between Menacing Mike and myself.  However as the white jersey-ed Eagle made contact with Cory, the owner of number 34, the brown ball was left behind, tumbling between the yard markers.  Seeing the fumble, I quickly jumped on the ball, securing its safety, while opposing white jerseys scampered to take it away.  A mere moment later, I felt the overwhelming presence of Menacing Mike in all his weighted glory, also attempt to secure the ball.  I was crushed under the massive frame of Menacing Mike.  The formerly inflated pigskin pressed deeply into my gut and I lost my breath.  I struggled to speak.  I struggled to breath. I struggled to struggle.  Never had I experienced such an overwhelming heavy burden before. 

After what seemed to be an eternity, Mike rolled off of me…and I was figuratively dragged off the field.  That was my last game for the blue and gold.  I couldn’t handle the heavy burden that high school football required. 

In 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, the Apostle Paul goes on to speak of the light and momentary troubles that we experience in this life.  He reveals that they are preparing us for the overwhelming weight of glory that will divulge God’s greatness, majesty, righteousness, magnificence…His Glory that believers will enjoy with him forever!

May we come to see how our struggles are so momentary compared to the glory of God that is to come! 


Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Vase

When my wife and I were married, we were given an exorbitant amount of generous gifts from our family and friends.  We received a whopping 29” television that was about as thick as it was tall…and wide.  Gifted with the TV was our very own VCR.  In the year 2000, people would go to a store and pay money to rent a movie on “video tape.”  These video cassettes were often abused, seldom rewound and at times would be damaged beyond the ability to watch.  Just a few years after our marriage, DVD’s entered the picture, which, could also be rented.  These discs were often abused, never rewound and more often than their predecessors, damaged beyond the ability to watch.  Additionally we also received two Coleman camping chairs, which despite appearing to have endured WWII, are still our favorite and most comfortable camping chairs that we own.  Other wedding gifts included wall hangings, bowls, plates, flatware, kitchen appliances and a number of silver and crystal pieces.  We still have most of these items displayed or stored somewhere within the confines of our humble home. 

One such piece is a crystal vase that we have owned since day one.  It is a large vase, capable of embracing 2 or 3 bouquets of store bought flowers at one time.  It may go without saying…but the sheer size of the vase has led to the rarity of its usage.  In fact, I cannot remember a time when this vase was used in our first 10 years of marriage.  This was mostly due to the fact that I could not afford to fill the vase for the wife of my youth…or perhaps more accurately, I was too cheap to purchase enough flowers to fill it.  I do recall that at the end of our first year of marriage, attempting to “fill” the vase with one single red rose that I had purchased and given to Sarah for our anniversary. 

The rose was lost among the wide mouth of the large vase.  I tried to cut it down. I tried to raise it up.  I tried adding some grass that I pulled up by the roots from next to the house.  I even tried cutting some branches from the back yard elm to add some sustenance to the display.  All of my efforts were pointless.  I finally resorted to taking the single red rose out of the vase and placing it in a small blue plastic cup.  It was a trick that I had learned as a child.  Every Mother’s day, I would go out and pick all of the dandelions from the yard and cram them into a small colored Tupperware cup…the most basic vessel for floral arrangements.  I would then proudly give the treasure to my mother early in the morning along with a cold piece of toast and some soggy cereal.  I would have probably been willing to do the same thing for my dad too…but dandelions are not in season as much in mid June. So for this first anniversary, my wife received one red rose in a blue plastic cup from Wal-Mart.

It has taken me 46 years of living, but I think that I am finally beginning to understand what Paul is referring to in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.  Here Paul describes a great treasure that has been placed in the most basic and fragile vessels…us.  He refers to us as being “jars of clay.” Plain old earthen vessels that are easily cracked and broken.  Yet, this is the very place that Jesus has placed the treasure of all treasures…HIS GOSPEL!

May we come to see that Jesus says that He will put that great treasure into us…mere clay pots…broken and battered…if we will merely receive the gift. It is not the vessel that makes the treasure great…it is the treasure that makes the vessel great!

Saturday, September 24, 2022

 Let there be light


It is a challenge to engage the darkness of this world…especially when it seems to continue to grow in its darkness.  It feels as if we encounter, more hate, more violence, more selfishness, more apathy, more crime, more road rage and more Packer fans each day.  It is even difficult to go throughout a day without encountering the darkness of mankind in some way or another.  Though this appears to be a growing phenomenon, it is a truth that has existed for generations…even centuries.

When I was in college I was fortunate enough to find employment as a delivery driver at a local Pizza Hut.  I had been working at the restaurant for several months and had managed to memorize the delivery area map.  This was an essential skill as it enabled me to deliver as many pizzas as possible in as little time as possible.  Additionally, I had invested in a 10 million candle power spotlight.  These were the pre-cell phone and gps days, so the spotlight was invaluable as it empowered me to find the house numbers on those dark streets, lanes, courts and cul-de-sacs. The quicker I could make a delivery the quicker I could move onto the next one, which would always end in more cash in my pockets and to a college student, little was more important.   

As I would approach the dark street, I would flip on the powerful spotlight and light up the neighborhood, shining from home to home looking for the corresponding house number associated with  the address of the order.  You could always tell the homes of “suspect activity.”  When the spotlight would shine through their window…the interior lights would go out and the occupants within would dash out of the home and take off running…thinking that my spotlight was coming from the local fuzz. This didn’t concern me…unless of course the delivery address happened to be the now vacant home of lawless young people.

There came one night, as I was driving home from my late night shift, where I was sitting at a stoplight in my 1981 Plymouth Grand Fury.  The car happened to be a former highway patrol car with a 318ci engine and a 4 barrel carburetor resting atop.  The car looked pathetic, but it had plenty of lively ponies remaining under the hood.  A large jacked up pickup truck pulled up next to me in the right hand turn only lane.  However…the truck did not turn.  It soon became obvious that the driver was not intending to turn, but rather to ILLEGALLY, go straight and get in front of me!  “HOW DARE HE!?” I thought, “NOT TODAY!” I whispered under my breath.  The light turned green and both he and I floored our respective accelerators.  I am proud to say that my spunky yet boxy Mopar left him behind to wallow in his “too big for his ego” pickup truck.  As the street narrowed he was eventually begrudgingly forced to merge into the proper lane behind me.  He made his irritation known by turning his bright lights on and blaring into my car from the back window.  I lifted my MaxiMillion 10 million candle power spotlight…pointed it out my back window…flipped it on and cried out, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!!!” His lights dimmed and he backed off…way off.

For years I have enjoyed that story and even found pride in my rusty but trust automobile, spotlight and my creative response. As I have aged, I have become aware of how prideful and dangerous my stunt really was.  Even more so, I have been confronted with a parallel that I had never considered before.  As a follower of Christ I have been given a light…THE light, within me.  I am called to shine that light.  Yet, sometimes I don’t think that I have done well at shining that light in a loving and effective way.  Perhaps I have even at times used my light as a weapon or have shone that light in aggressive ways.  The light of the Gospel is beautifully designed to shine into the darkness from hearts that have been transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Paul reveals this reality in 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. 

May we come to invite the Spirit to give us that heart of flesh and to shine his light into the darkness as an act of love, empowered by His Spirit.

Saturday, September 10, 2022



Sometimes I am confounded by thoughts.  For example…do you ever wonder………?

Do you see what I mean?

The fact is that no two people think exactly alike. I know this because I am married and Sarah has not come to see things my way…yet.  Despite this, we all share the undeniable truth that we all…think.  Here is a deep thought.  Have you ever considered that maybe you are the only one who sees the color blue as really blue and everyone else sees it as pink, but they have been taught that pink is blue?

If you ever ask someone, “What are you thinking?,” to which they reply, “Nothing.” You know that person is a liar, because technically and scientifically our brains never stop thinking…except perhaps for boys between the ages of 12-19. 

There are times when my thoughts consume me, even paralyze me.  Just the other night, I woke up in a panic at 3:30 AM with the thought that I had left the grill on from the previous night’s pork chop supper.  With my heart racing, I couldn’t shake the thought.  Finally, I walked out onto the deck to check the grill.  It was off…whew…but the shed door was open.  So…I went back to bed without closing the shed door.

During my third year of college I noticed a girl during the first week of classes.  Every day afterward my mind was bent on wanting to get to know her more.  I would look for her in the dining center, in the hallways and in the library.  Interestingly, the library was the hotspot, as she was a 4.0 student with summa cum laude accolades.  Finally, in February…six month later, I got the nerve to ask her out.  I took her to a coffee shop.  Strategically, I selected a coffee shop which happened to be on the opposite side of the twin cities, in effort to gain as much time with her as I could. It was an incredible evening.  She was beautiful, clever, funny, sensitive, honorable and humble.  She was everything that I wanted to be, but was not.  I remember thinking, as I dropped her off at her dorm room, “I want to do that again.” I went right up to my own room and called my dad. 

“Hello.” He said as he answered.

“Dad!, I have met the ONE!” and I began to tell him all about her.

I could barely sleep that night as my thoughts continued to return to the coffee shop and the girl next to me.  Since that day, she has continued to be on my mind.  Years later, I learned of her own response to that first night.  She had gone into her room and said to her roommates, “Wow! That guy can be normal!”

She too had trouble sleeping.

She was on my mind and I was on her mind.  That is still true today.

This is a small picture of what we find in Malachi 3:13-4:6.  Here we find that those who love the Lord will have God on their mind.  Likewise we see that we are on God’s mind.  I am reminded of Psalm 8:4, “What is man that you are mindful of him…that you care for him.”  It is incredible to consider…that God’s thoughts are consumed with us! YOU and ME!

May our thoughts dwell on the grace and mercy of the Lord God almighty, knowing that his mind is also on us! 

Saturday, September 3, 2022


I climbed the 5 wooden steps, each tread crafted by an inverted split log, leaving the flat face as a sturdy surface to ascend to the platform deck.  Upon reaching the platform, I made my way to the edge and looked down the nearly 36 inches below, where 12 of my college classmates stood waiting…each one wearing a sinister grin. 

“Now Ryan, it’s your turn, Ha ha. You need to turn around with your feet on the edge of the platform and fall backwards.  We will catch you.  You need to trust us. This is a trust exercise and it is important that we all trust one another…so anytime you are ready…go ahead…anytime now…”

My eyebrows scrunched and concern covered my face as I reflected on some of the events of the past few weeks. I saw Sally below me and remembered what I had just said to her last Sunday after the Vikings had destroyed her beloved Packers, “Wow! You must be ashamed of being from Wisconsin!  Ha ha, the only good thing coming out of Wisconsin is I-94! Bwaaa ha ha.” I am certain that I saw her yellow eyes suddenly flash red as vengeful thoughts filled her mind.

I wonder if George knew that I was the one who had taken his towel and clothes from the shower room yesterday morning.  His menacing smirk told me that he did.

My roommate, Paulie, also stood below looking up at me with his blonde curly haired mullet atop of a scornful face that could melt candle wax. “Yikes!” I thought, “He knows that I ate the rest of his Oreos.”

“Now Ryan, there is no need for you to not trust us…just fall back and we will catch you!”

Certainly, my college professor, Mr. Watzizname, had no idea of my long laundry list of sins.

I swallowed hard and threw myself back believing that today was as good of a day as any to die.

I didn’t die.  My classmates did catch me…and then…it seemed…decided to drop me the remaining 12 inches to the hard dirt floor.

“There, you see Ryan, you can trust us.” My professor encouraged.

“I’m next!” Cried Jimmy. Although no one heard him. 

The next thing we knew is that Jimmy, all 300 lbs of him, was flying through the air, heading quickly to the ground with arms flung to his sides like an eagle. My fellow students did what any sane person would do when seeing a giant mass plummeting towards the earth. They moved out of its path.  I on the other hand was unable to move as I still stood in the middle of the pack from my own “Trust Fall.”  I am sorry to say that I was unable to catch Jimmy…I was however…able to break Jimmy’s fall.  He bounced off of me and back onto his feet and exclaimed, “Wow! That was cool! Who’s next?” while I remained still, lying in the dirt, ribs aching, and not breathing.

I have come to find that trust is one of the most difficult things to do.  If William Tell’s son had not been forced to stand tethered to the pole with an apple on his head…would he have stayed there while his father released the arrow?  I highly doubt it!

Yet, despite the incredibly long list of untrustworthy things in this world, I believe that I have found something that is rock solid.  In fact, the Lord reveals this very truth in Malachi 2:17-3:12.  Here we find the most solid and trustworthy truth.  God NEVER changes.  He can always be trusted.  He has never lied. He has never broken a promise. He has always done what he says that he will do…AND he says that we can trust him.  He invites us to trust him and to put our faith in him. 

I believe Him, and I am learning to put my trust in Him.  Will you?

Saturday, August 27, 2022


After dropping my oldest daughter off to college last weekend, my mind has been continually recalling a tidal wave of memories from my own days of institutional education.  Some of these lessons even occurred within the confines of the college classrooms. While other lessons were learned in the various realms of dorm rooms, hallways, dinning centers, roof tops, elevator shafts, “borrowed” college vehicles, professors homes…(both invited and uninvited), college auto shops, storage garages, the college mail room and other allowed and forbidden spaces.

I am astounded by the sheer number of laughs and memories that have come to mind, which I recall with such affection.  As I consider the fondness of these memories, I wonder what it is about them that draws my affection.  I have reached a conclusion.  It seems that each of these fond memories share a common factor…they are/were all shared experiences.  In some way or another, the affection for the memory is due to the fact that community was expressed in the memory.

For example, one fond memory is a simple time when I invited my, would be wife, (though she was clueless at the time,) up to my dorm room (open dorm night), for iced tea and chocolate.  It was a terrible combination but it is all I had to offer.  I remember with affection the savory sweet time of tea, chocolate, and conversation.

There were a few occasions when I made my way to the mail room to check my usually empty college mailbox that I was surprised to discover that I had a package waiting for me!  These are particularly fond memories.  Some of the most notable packages that I received were from my mother.  Her packages were always filled with the wonderful necessities of college life, homemade lefse and cookies, note cards and ramen noodles.  She always gave me enough to share…though I seldom did. 

It warms my heart even now to think about those packages, as they are to me a practical display of my mother’s affection.

I have come to believe that we all desire not only love…but also affection.  Certainly they go hand in hand. But let’s be honest, how many of us can say that we truly feel affection for the enemy that we are called to love?  It is like the difference between choosing to love a difficult person and actually finding yourself “liking” that person.

In Malachi 2:1-16, we will find God inviting people into an affectionate relationship.  He is not calling and demanding a bunch of robots to respond.  He is beckoning relational people to step into an affectionate relationship with Him, His Word and with each other.

May we come to see the deep affection that God has for each of us and be drawn to embrace the affectionate relationship with our Creator and Savior.

Saturday, August 20, 2022


We dropped off our firstborn child at college yesterday.  I knew that it would be a challenge for Sarah, but I did not know how difficult it would be for me.  Days before, I had been trying to prepare Sarah for the coming challenges with words of encouragement and hope. 

“Hey Sarah! When ‘Hurricane Hannah,’ is gone at college, think of how much easier it will be to keep the house clean!”

“Oh, don’t you pretend that you are going to be all happy,” she said, “You are going to miss her and you will probably even breakdown and cry.”

“Who me?,” I defended, “No way…I am a rock!”

“I would say that you are more like a stump…a rotting, crumbly, stump stuck in the woods weeping and oozing with fungus growing out your sides.”  (Sarah did not say these words…but her blue eyes clearly etched her feelings into my mind).

“I guess we will see,” I replied smugly.

We arrived to the college before 10:00 a.m. and after several hours of work I slumped to a sofa in the lounge and allowed beads of my sweat to run off my head and settle onto the faux-leather seat without caring.

“We need you to put together Hannah’s shower shelf, her shoe shelf, and then go shopping and buy some more shelves and some hooks to hang her hammock.”

“Hammock! What does she need a hammock for, doesn’t she have a bed?”

“She also brought a hammock.”

“Great Scott! Next you are going to tell me that she brought a referee’s shirt and a whistle.”

“The shirt…no…the whistle…yes.”

I rose from the now slippery sofa and did as I was told.

As the day went on, my mind would wonder back to the little girl I remembered from the past 18 years.  Emotion would begin to well up in my throat…and I would press it back down as quickly as I could to remain the sturdy rock that I claimed to be. 

After several more hours of work we were coming close to being done.

“Where are we going to put the whistle?” Sarah asked.

“I’ll find a place for it,” I proclaimed, and slid it into my pocket. “There…done!  Bye Bye!”

“Ryan, we are not leaving yet! We have a meeting for parents and students and then we have supper and then the farewell dessert.”

The longer the day lingered the more difficult it was for me to keep the water works at bay.

There came a moment during supper while I was gently scratching Hannah’s back, where suddenly she was once again the 3 year old tight-curly haired, gum chewing toddler singing “These Feet.” Water erupted from my eyes like a garden hose, which I quickly dabbed away, but the water kept coming…so I kept dabbing.  I dabbed so vigorously that I began to draw comical looks from those around me. 

“Good,” I thought, “I am being amusing...this will help distract me from my emotion.”

When the meal and the dessert finished, we escorted Hannah back to her dorm.  It was time to say good bye.  My throat suddenly shrunk, and I began to choke as I said, “I have a little something for you Hannah,” but sounded like “A ha e eigt umig au u ahah.”

I slipped a large bag of Peanut M&M’s into her hands, hugged her and blubbered, “I love you, I am proud of you…Good bye. Ok everyone, get into the car.” My eyes were blinded with tears and I smashed my knee into the vehicle as I tried to scramble in before any bystanders would see me in my authentic mess.

The rest of the family began crying too.  “Look at them…they can’t even hold back their tears,” I thought. “Let’s go girls…enough crying it’s time to go!”

“Oh stop!, you were crying too!” Sarah retorted.

“Only because I gave away a big bag of Peanut M&M’s…you don’t know how difficult that is!”

I have to level with you.  My tears and my emotions were real.  They were genuine. My love for Hannah is incredibly genuine.  It always has been.  I remember the very first day that I set my eyes on her and held her.  She looked right back at me with her newborn eyes, and then I planted a kiss on her forehead. It was a genuine act of love, just as genuine as that gift of the candy.  I could feel these acts coming from the depths of my soul as an expression of deep love and emotion.

In Malachi 1:6-14, we find God calling His people to be authentic, real and genuine, in their worship of Him.  He knows their deeds, and their deeds are but mere empty actions.  They are simple tasks attempting to appease the God of love.  God doesn’t want their meaningless sacrifice…he wants their love…he wants their authentic love and their genuine worship.

May we resist the stalwart efforts of appearing to have it all together and open ourselves to a real, genuine and authentic love and worship of the God of love!

Saturday, August 6, 2022

 The Little Bother

“Oh! NOT FAIR! Why does he get to stay up past 10:00? We never got to do that when we were his age!” I cried to my father.

To which he flatly replied, “Well, that’s because we love him more.”

My mouth dropped open in astonishment and readied myself to speak…but nothing came out.  Certainly, I had wondered if my parents loved my siblings more than me, as it was obvious that I was the victim of unfair treatment for years.  Yet, I couldn’t figure out as to why that could be the case.  My little “bother” was nothing but a nose-twitching pain in the neck.  Every time I looked at him I wanted to punch him in the face.  I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t naturally feel the same way.  It seemed obvious to me and I was convinced that everyone must secretly feel that way. 

I remember when he was 5 years old.  My parents chose not to start him in kindergarten and keep him home from school for one more year.  I took this as more evidence that he was too dumb for school.  I have always thought of myself as being more intelligent that my little “bother”.  It didn’t matter that he received nearly straight A’s all through school.  I was still smarter.  It didn’t matter that the teachers all thought that he was a perfect little angel.  I knew better…he was the little bother. 

Even today, I am smarter.  Sure he has a PhD and wears a white coat to work.  Yes…he can understand the complexities of the human genome.  Yet, it is I who knows where his GI Joe action figure was hidden…and still lies…snuggly in the basement wall secretly behind the drywall.    

Considering all of my own personal feelings of superiority, it is no wonder that my dad’s words took me by surprise. Yet…the words HAD BEEN spoken. 

“Well, it’s still not fair!” I finally retorted.

I know that I am not alone in these feelings.  I hear some of the same phrases coming from my own children like a constant drip from a leaky faucet. 

“Not fair! Why do I ALWAYS have to be the one to walk the dog?”

“You don’t…now go walk the dog.”

“Not fair! Why am I ALWAYS the one who gets into trouble?”

“Because you are ALWAYS the one who is doing something wrong.”

“Not fair! Why don’t I get any ice cream?”

“Because I paid for it…and I ate it all.”

“Not fair! Why doesn’t Erica ever get into trouble?”

“Because, we love her more.”

Even my wife, Sarah, has experienced the “not fairs.”  Recently she was sorting through a box of papers that her mother had kept from her childhood.  As she was reading through some of the old articles and notes, she came across a brief message that had been written to her parents.  “Nobody loves me…TRUE!”

As much as it likely pains my little “bother,” my parents did love me.  In fact, it is quite possible that they even loved ME more.  I love my children more than anything.  Sarah’s parents loved her…even in the midst of the note.  Yet, we often fall into our own self absorption and cannot see the truth that exists right in front of us.  I find it ironic…that in an act of cherished “love,” Sarah’s parents kept that little note of sorrow. 

The book of Malachi reveals the truth of the unconditional love of God.  In this incredible book we will see the patient and unending love that God has for us…even when we don’t see it.  Like the keeping of the note in a box, Malachi 1:1-5 reveals the evidence of the love of God. 

May you be assured that God loves you…and God love me! 

What do you think of that Little Bother?

Saturday, July 23, 2022

 True or False

I remember sitting in my Principles of Biblical Interpretations class in college.  Dr. Lanpher, being true to form, began his Monday morning class as he did all of his Monday morning classes…with a single question pop quiz.  Each quiz was based off of the assigned reading from the previous class.  In this case the one question pop quiz consisted of…“True of False…The Bible contains the actual words of Jesus.”

Score! This was a no brainer! The answer was so simple…of course it was true…it had to be true.  Just then, it occurred to me…it seemed too simple.  The question lingered with the rotten odor of the answer seems to obvious smell. The confidence I held just a moment ago began to ebb away as I began to ponder the possibility…could it be false?  “It must be false!,” I concluded, “Why else would he as the question THAT way?”

Yet, It had to be true.  The Bible is the Word of God…and the words of Jesus are in the Bible…“It must be true,” I countered to myself. 

“Put your one word answer on your paper…PLEASE ensure that your name is clearly printed on your paper and turn it in.”

“Wait!” Several students exclaimed from around the room, “I’m not finished!”

“What is so difficult?” Dr. Lanpher asked. “It is either True or it is False…write one word on your paper and turn it in.”

Oh! How I wished that I had read the chapter! My pen shook as I sat there…believing that he wanted each student to write “false” on their paper and turn it in.  But I couldn’t do it!! It went against everything I have believed and held onto when it came to the inherency of scripture.  I…I…I wrote TRUE on my paper and turned it in.”

After the quiz papers had been collected, Dr. Lanpher asked, “All right students…what is the answer.”

Nearly the entire class echoed together with a resounding, “True!”

“False,” He said.

“What! How can that be?,” several students rebutted.

Dr. Lanpher replied, “The New Testament was written in Greek…and Jesus spoke Aramaic…it is impossible for the Bible to contain the exact words of Jesus.”

“THAT IS A TRICK QUESTION!” Shouted my Hmong friend Vu Yang.

“This is college Vu.” was Dr. Lanpher’s curt response. 

It strikes me as interesting, as to how I was holding to a belief that was not as substantiated as I had previously thought.  Did the Gospel message change? NO! Did the inherency of scripture change? Absolutely NOT! It was I who was deceived…by…myself.  The message of Christ hadn’t changed…just what I “thought” that I knew about it.  What I believe is not what truly matters. What is TRUE is what really matters.  Yet, we often believe things that are not true.

It is so easy for humans to be deceived and to deceive ourselves.    

Paul challenges us to be careful of this very thing…self deception.  As we have read the book of Galatians we have found that Jews had been deceived.  False teachers had been deceived…and were deceiving others.  Gentile believers had been deceived. Paul challenges every believer to NOT be deceived.

If humans are so easily deceived…how can we avoid it?  I think that we can find the answer in Galatians 6:14, where Paul says, “May I never boast in anything…but in the Cross of Christ.”  I think that is it. We can easily be deceived into believing in and boasting about every kind of crazy thing in life.  But, if we can keep the Cross of Christ before us…and boast in that, then I think we can learn to trust the Spirit to guide us into all truth.  Let us therefore keep our eyes on Christ and the Cross, so as to not be deceived.

Saturday, July 16, 2022


My first real experience with community was in middle school when our church youth group went swimming at the nearest “community” center.  In this case, the nearest community center was 18 miles away in the neighboring town of Staples, MN.  I had certainly been exposed to community prior to this event, but in my self-absorbed, egocentric, middle school mind, all other community aspects in my life, like family, church, school, etc…would have been lost to the fact that life was all about me and not to the communities in which I dwelt. 

The Staples Community Center, was the ONLY community center within a 50 mile radius or more from my home town of Wadena.  In fact, it held the ONLY indoor pool…with a diving board…that I knew of.  It is a widely held belief that a community center is called a community center, because it offers all kinds of wonderful opportunities for everyone in the “community.”  However, as I look back on those care free days of community center living, I can easily spot the real reason for the less than flashy title.  I am convinced that the title is derived from the fact that at places like these…everything is “shared” with the “community.”  Here we find that the showers, lockers, benches, the diving board, experiences and influenza are all shared.  I remember watching one particular 6 year old boy share a head full of snot with everyone in the water, when his sneeze sent floating currents of mucus across the pool’s surface.  Next to him, my friend Matt obliviously sucked up water in his mouth and shared it with others as he shot it at the cute girls in a pre-pubescent effort at flirting. I won’t even mention the small children wearing…or not wearing…swim diapers.

When our youth group finished up with all of our “sharing” within the “community” center, we all shared a ride home, and we shared stories of our chicken fight victories.  The next day we would all show up to church with red blood-shot eyes and itchy skin as a sign of the solidarity of our community.

Since I have grown older, I have learned two things about community. Number 1: Community pools are gross. Number 2: Community is much deeper, more powerful and vital, than I had ever realized before.

Living in community is difficult, but it is worth it.  Interestingly, one of the greatest challenges to community is conflict, while one of the greatest builders of community is…also conflict.  Living in community is exhausting. It is inevitable that conflicts will arise and we will become tired of investing so much time and energy into many of our relationships.

Likewise, Paul recognized this in the Galatian churches as well, so he encouraged them to persevere.  Paul encouraged believers to carry each other’s burdens, to not bite or devour each other, and to not grow weary from doing good.  To Paul, the Gospel in community was so important that he called the believers to endure.  He also spurred us on to “not grow weary.” The he exhorted that if we will hang in there, that a harvest will be reaped if we do not give up.  As I look at this passage, I believe that Paul was speaking these words to and in the context for community and the relationships within the community.

May we not give up on relationships.  May we not grow weary for doing good, and may the Lord bring the harvest of restored relationships within the community.

Saturday, July 9, 2022


A few years ago, as I was single parenting the children for a weekend, the inevitable happened.  It never seems to fail, that some unexpected, perhaps even catastrophic, event will always occur during these, “Mommy is gone, Daddy is in charge weekends.” It could be a vomiting 5 year old or a concussed toddler.  It could be a broken, glass mixing bowl or a small fire in the oven.  Nothing is really off limits.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, I sent my son Isaac out to the minivan, which was parked in the garage, to clean it.  I commissioned him to throw away all of the trash, which there was A LOT of trash. He was to remove the items that didn’t belong in the van, (i.e. bowls, spoons, notebooks, pens, toys, etc…) and vacuum out all of the dirt.  While he was diligently working in the van, I was still in the house working on cleaning up other areas of the home.  I empowered the 3 girls to help me.  I encouraged them with exasperated exclamations, beckoning them to clean up their messes…and stop making more messes. 

Isaac had been at his work for about 20 minutes when, between my barks at the girls I would hear a periodic… squeak…from somewhere that I could not place.

“Girls! You need to take care of your Lego Friends and your dolls!”…squeak…

“Ok, Daddy!” they replied…but continued to do nothing. …squeak…

“Girls! Why is there milk spilled all over the kitchen floor? I just cleaned it!” …squeak…

“We don’t know Daddy!” they squawked back cheerily.  …squeak…

As this squeak continued…it seemed that the noise began to take on a literary form.

“Girls! Why are your clothes on the kitchen floor!”  …Dweack

“We used them to clean up the milk Daddy!”  …Dwaaadck

“Girls! Do you hear something?” Dwaaaaad!

“Like what Daddy?”

“Quiet girls!...Listen…” … … …Dwaaaaad!...

“There…did you hear that?”

Dwaaaaad!   The sound squeaked again.  It sounded as if it were coming from the garage.  I went out to check on Isaac, and as I stepped into the garage, I heard the squeaking sound much clearer.  My son’s small but muffled voiced echoed from inside the van.


I looked and saw his screaming face through the window of the sliding side door of the van.

 “Daaaad! Heeeaaallllppp!”

I reach to open the door. It wouldn’t move. My son continued to scream.

“Daaaad! Heeealp! Ouououch!”

I scurried to the other side of the van and opened the opposite door and crawled inside next to him. 

“What’s going on?”

“Myyyy haaand! Ahhh!” he squelched as tears flowed from his eyes.

I now saw that his hand had been slammed in and was stuck in the closed door.  I reached across and attempted to open the door.  It still would not open.  I checked the lock.  It was unlocked, but completely stuck with his hand caught tightly inside.  He couldn’t pull it out and I couldn’t open the door.  He continued to wail as I hopelessly worked to open the non-functioning door. 

Finally, all I could do was brace my feet on the opposite side of the car while pressing outward on the jammed door, and performed my best horizontal squat.  I gritted my teeth and growled in effort, pushing as hard as I could against the door, not knowing what I could actually accomplish.  To my relief, I was able to create just enough clearance for his hand to slip out of the lodged van door.

I think that this is the picture that Paul is referring to when we read Galatians 6:1-5.  Paul describes a person who is “caught in sin.” In Paul’s context, to be “caught” is to be “trapped.”  Paul then calls for those who are “walking in step with the Spirit,” to help restore them.

Consider how absurd it would have been for me to walk away from my son who was trapped with his hand stuck in the door.  Consider how absurd it would be for me to sit down next to my screaming son and tell him how foolish he was to close the door on his hand and tell him how messed up he really is.  It wouldn’t make sense.  Likewise, when we are following the Spirit…we are led to help one another…we are led to “carry one another’s burdens.”  Paul is calling people to help one another out of the trap of sin.  Paul is not calling us to point out everything that a person is doing wrong.  There is a huge difference.  Yet…we are responsible to HELP restore!

May we come to see the Spirit’s work in our lives and help to carry one another’s burdens.