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?