Saturday, March 26, 2022


One summer, a mother and her two children moved into one of the quadriplex apartments to our south.  One of the children’s names was Calvin.  My own children knew Calvin and spoke of his harried history.  He had been in and out of juvenile centers, spent many hours in detention, and perhaps, was suspended more days than he was actually in school.  To put it simply, a “bad influence” appeared to have moved into the neighborhood. 

As the summer began Calvin would bike by and see our family outside playing catch with a football and he would stop and say, “Hi, Isaac,” (who he knew from school), “Can I play?”

I immediately spoke up, “Sure Calvin!”

There became a pattern.  Whenever Calvin saw us outside, he would stop and ask to participate.  Calvin joined us for backyard fires and s’mores, basketball in the driveway, biking up and down the street and skateboarding off of the curb.  It seemed, in fact, that nearly every time Calvin walked or biked by the front of our house, he would either stop, call out a greeting, or come up to the door and ring the doorbell. 

One thing that Calvin loved more than anything was fishing. Calvin would often bring his fishing rod over and he and Isaac would practice their casting in the yard.  One Christmas I found one of Calvin’s lure lodged into the shingles of the roof as I was putting up the Christmas lights.

One evening, I watched as Calvin was riding his bicycle home with a flat tire. 

“Calvin, what’s up?” I asked.

“Oh, my tire is flat.”

“Bring it here…I can hook you up.”

I quickly realized that both, Calvin’s tire and tube where shot from being ridden so long on the flat tire. I dug through my bin of extra bike parts and found a tube and a tire that would fit.  I had Calvin up and  running like new in just a few minutes. 

Ironically, it was the very next day that I saw Calvin struggling to hold his fishing pole while pushing his bike home with another flat tire. 

“Calvin, what’s going on?” I questioned.

“My fishing line got stuck in my bike hub…it’s all wrapped up around the wheel and my tire is all stuck like it’s locked up or something.”

I took a look at the bike and found that Calvin had not exaggerated and the tire was indeed locked in place, like a leech on a fishhook.  a kindergarten boy with a finger up his nose.  As Calvin had pushed his bike home, the locked tire had been skidding along the asphalt the entire way.  This created a 5 inch long gash in both the new tire and tube I had put on the previous day.  I went back to my bin and found another tire and tube.

As we were eating supper one night, our doorbell rang.  Sure enough, it was Calvin.

“Calvin, what’s shaking?” I asked, “Aside from your backpack,” which was indeed shaking. 

“Is Isaac home, I have something I want to show him?”

“Sure is.” I replied and called for my son.

When Isaac arrived at the door, Calvin excitedly pulled off his school backpack, set it at his feet and unzipped the top.  He then pulled out a wet, slimy, smallmouth bass with grammar and math worksheets stuck to the sides.

“Look what I caught!” He happily exclaimed!

“Wow! That is some fish!” Isaac affirmed.

“Yeah, how did your math assignment turn out there?” I asked.

“I don’t know…I haven’t turned it in yet.”

Finally, as summer was winding down, my wife was heading out for a walk and met Calvin’s mother, Beth.

“Are you Isaac’s mom?” Beth asked.

“Yes I am, and who might you be?”

“I’m Beth, Calvin’s mom.  I just want to say thank you! Thank you for welcoming Calvin.  Isaac is all that Calvin talks about and your family has been so kind to him.  He seems like a different kid since you have become involved in his life.”

Calvin was not the easiest kid to have patience with.  He often showed up at times when we wanted it to be just our family.  Our doorbell rang at times when we didn’t have the energy to engage, and I ran out of extra bicycle supplies. There were places that I often would have rather been, things that I would have rather had done and s’mores that I would have rather eaten myself. The Gospel of Grace, powered by love, frees us from sin, death and the law…also provides an obligation.  We are obligated to follow the truth of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit living in us always leads and presses us to that Truth.  That Truth is to offer grace and love to people…all people that the Lord brings into our lives.  The Gospel is offered to everyone…not just the people who are easy to love.  The gospel is not just for people like us, it is for everyone, even people who are nothing like us…the Calvin’s in our lives.

Calvin moved before that winter arrived, yet I hope that Calvin will always remember the right hand of fellowship that was offered to him that summer…not by the “Olsons” but in a way…by the giver of that gospel of grace…Jesus Christ.

May we come to see that we are obligated to stand for the Truth of the Gospel.   We are obligated to obey the Spirit that is in us...and the Truth of that Spirit is Love.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

 Free to be Free

“You can’t tell me what to do, I am an adult now!” I boldly stated to my father. 

“I told you, I don’t want you going! It is not a good idea. My father retorted.

I felt anger build inside me and I listened to the oppressive demands of the tyrant I called, “Dad.”  I could imagine his tension building as well as I pictured his knuckles turning white from the increased clutching of the telephone.  I was 18 years and two months old and I was going to head out of town after closing down the gas station to watch a movie with my buddies.  I felt that I was being gracious to call my parents at all and tell them what I was doing.  However, the iron fist of fatherly rule was squelching my plans.  “Dad! I’m going and I have to go now! The last show starts at midnight and I am not going to make it if I wait!”

“Nothing good happens after midnight!”

“I don’t know about that…the movie is supposed to be really ‘good,’” I snidely remarked.

 “You are not going!”

“Yes, I am! You can’t stop me.”

“If you go, the locks on the doors will be changed when you get back.  If you want to be an adult…then you can go and be an adult.”

Ok…I guess he can stop me…I came home.

I thought that I was free, but in reality, I was still submissive to the rules instated by my parents.  Yet, I no longer live under their rule.  Now as a 46 year old I don’t even bother to ask…or even tell my parents if I am going to a movie.  I do occasionally ask them to fill my gas tank, or pay for my supper.  They are still my parents after all…I figure they owe me?

Freedom is a difficult concept.  As Americans we are free…we live in a free country, yet we are inundated with rules.  Thus, we linger in confusion with what freedom is.  At one point in Jesus’ ministry he says, “If the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed.” Paul writes at great length about freedom in the letter to the Galatians.  Galatians 5:1 states, that it is for “freedom that we have been set free,” and Galatians 2:1-10 reveals an astounding truth…we are FREE.  We are 100% set free! We are set free by the grace of Jesus Christ! Maybe it’s time that we really understand what this freedom is and the amazing grace that it reflects.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

 The Call

Spring is on the way.  I look forward to being able to open the windows and let the fresh air, breeze through the home refreshing the stale air of winter.  One of my favorite aspects about spring is when I can leave the windows open, secretly, for the over night.  The crisp cool air is delightful to sleep in.  Each spring evening I crack the windows open secretly because my wife does not share my affinity for the cold air.  There is nothing like waking up to a cool fresh morning with the windows open…until…the crows begin to call.  “Caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, cackle, caw…” I close the window answering their call with a cold hearted “NO.”

The nature of the “call” has changed dramatically with the advancement of technology.  In times past, a “call” may have begun with the heralding of a trumpet blast, followed by some royal instructions. Da da da dahhh…”here ye, here ye, the King would like to announce that fuel prices will increase by 150% over the next week or so!”  Such a call may be followed by boos and the throwing of rotten fruit.

I remember my first girlfriend, Monica.  She would frequently call me after school.  I would answer the phone, stretching the 25’ coiled cord to its limit which would just reach the top of basement stairs.  I would then close the door to have some privacy for our kindergarten conversation…which consisted primarily of…



“How are you?”

“Good, how are you?”

“Good, what are you doing?”

“Talking to you.”

“Yeah, me to.”

Followed by 10 minutes of silent breathing.

Now a-days it is the exact same…only via texting.

In my early years of ministry I was commissioned to perform a wedding ceremony out of town.  I was the first to arrive at the church for the rehearsal and 30 minutes later the wedding party and family had not yet arrived.  Having no cell phone at the time I went to the phone on the wall and began to read the instructions as to how to make an outgoing call.  I failed several times before I slowed down and tried to accomplish each detailed task.

To make an outgoing call, press 9

I pressed 9

Followed by 1

I pressed 1

Then the number.

I began to enter the number…1-218-63…a voice began to speak to me, “911 what is your emergency.”

I panicked and quickly hung up the phone.

That was a mistake.  Now I had no way to call them back to explain my mistake, without again dialing 911. The wedding party now began to arrive as did the police cars.  The wall phone began to ring. I took a deep breath and answer the call.  I explicated my error to the tensely toned dispatcher. I then went and spoke to the officers.  “Could I see your ID please?” asked one officer while the other stood studying me with one hand on his radio and the other resting on his pistoled hip. 

“Sir, why is your face so read? Are you hiding something or are you just sunburned?” asked the pistoled hipped officer.

I was released to go about my work.

 “What was that about?” the groom to be inquired.


“Have you been in the sun?”

Whether we acknowledge it in our lives or not, I believe that there is a call on our lives.  I believe that God is calling.  The phone is ringing and he wants us to answer.  We are being “called,” not necessary to do…but to be.  We are being called by him, to be loved by him, to love him, AND to express that incredible love to others.  Jesus is calling, maybe it’s time…to just answer the call and say yes to the love of God expressed through Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:1, 11-24 reveals a powerful picture of how God calls Paul and how he is calling us. 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

 Good Deed


As a child, I always wanted to be a Scout. Not just a small “s” scout, but a full-fledged capital “S” Scout.  During my elementary school years, I remember living in envy of all of my friends who were “Cub Scouts.”  I wished that I too had a navy blue shirt with the yellow handkerchief and the badges affixed on the chest and sleeves.  I could just envision all of my Cub Scout buddies gathering around campfires, roasting marshmallows and sleeping among the howls of wolves, hoots of owls and tents filled with mosquitoes. 

One day after school, I went to my friend Luke’s house.  Luke was everything that I was not, yet wished that I could be.  Luke was popular, athletic, dapper, smooth, and suave.  Luke had all of the girls swooning after him…and he was a Cub Scout.  I remember standing in his room admiring his pinewood derby cars.  There were two of them and each one stood next to a trophy.

 “Wow! Where did you get these cars and trophies?”

“Oh, they are from Cub Scouts.  We make the cars and then we race them. I won a couple of times.”

“Cool! What else do you do at Cub Scouts?”

“Oh I don’t know…stuff…we meet…learn to tie some knots and listen to some old guys talk.  Then, our den mothers usually bring milk and cookies for us to eat.”

“What! Wow! Milk and cookies?”


“That sounds really great! I wish I could be in Cub Scouts.”

When I returned home I implored my mother to allow me to join the scouting ranks, “Mom! Did you know that Luke is a Cub Scout? They have camp fires, and they race cars, and they tie knots, and they eat cookies! Do you think I could be in Cub Scouts?”

“Hmmm…that doesn’t sound very safe.  I don’t think that would be a good idea.  You shouldn’t be playing with fire and you don’t even have a license to drive.  Not to mention, I think that you just want to learn knots so that you can tie up your sister, and if you want a cookie, I think there is one left in the cookie jar…help yourself.”

I went to the jar and pondered which to take…the dried up chocolate chip cookie or the stale slice of bread.  I put the lid back on, opting for neither and resigned myself to living a scout-less life, yet my admiration of my scouting friends continued.

One spring afternoon, a group of my Cub Scout friends and I were gathered to play politically incorrect games like, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians and duck, duck gray duck.  As we were gallivanting among the lilacs and dandelion infested lawns of the neighborhood, we observed an elderly woman crossing the street, struggling with two paper grocery bags.  Apparently, doing “good deeds” is a strong initiative of Scouts, which I was unaware of at the time.  I watched as Tom, Jon, Luke and Jay all bolted after the silver-haired civilian with their bows, arrows and guns still in hand.  The women’s feet quickened, and worry spread over her face as the pre-adolescent posse pursued this now frightened geriatric.  Just as she approached the opposite corner, the quartet ripped the bags from her hand spilling much of the contents.  The four of them scampered to gather the spilled items and place them back into the partially torn brown paper bags.  The foursome handed the bags back to the lady and jogged back to our side of the street where I stood waiting.

“There!” Tom exclaimed, “We did our good deed for the day!”

“Yeah! We will have to be sure to tell den mother, Betty, so we can get credit for our next badge!” Jay agreed.

“Hmmm...,” I considered, “I wish I could do a good deed.”

Good deeds are, indeed, good.  In fact they are fantastic.  However, what I have learned and have been challenged by is the “reason” for the deeds that I do.  It is human nature, I think, to believe that somehow, the deeds that I do will be credited to my future, eternal self.  We default to a belief that if I do good things, then I will earn God’s favor or special blessings from Him.  We tend to believe that the good deeds that we do will pay for the bad deeds that litter our past. Perhaps, we even believe that the good things that we do can erase our sins, pay penance, or restore our broken relationship with God. I have heard some people, even Christians, express the powers of karma arising to pay us back for our bad deeds.

This is NOT the Gospel.  There is only ONE Gospel and that Gospel is a Gospel of grace.  Paul speaks strongly to the churches in Galatia (and thus to all Christians), in Galatians 1:1-10 that there is only one Gospel and that Gospel is Jesus…Jesus period…and not Jesus plus anything.

May we come to trust in Jesus and His only Gospel.