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!