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!