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?