Saturday, September 30, 2023


Over the past five weeks I have placed my backside on the cold hard bleachers of local high school stadiums every Friday night to watch football.  I have a vested interest.  My son is in the midst of his senior season and I don’t want to miss a game.  Additionally, I feel that it is my fatherly duty to keep a close eye on my two younger daughters who also attend these games.  Unbeknownst to them evil boys are on the prowl and I must ensure that these boys DO NOT make any “non-football” moves. 

Over these past five games I have enjoyed both wins and losses along with the varsity squad.  I have jumped to my feet in response to incredible big plays and I am sure that I have incidentally kicked the lady sitting in front of me as I have contorted my body in agony as the opposing teams scored yet another touchdown.  Sorry about that Cindy.

Although every game is different, they share common threads.  Every game includes amazing catches, wonderful runs, powerful tackles and touchdowns.  Additionally, every game includes missed tackles, dropped balls and incomplete passes.  Each game consists of its own combination of victories and mistakes.  It seems impossible to not allow my emotions to build.  Mistakes are made and emotions build. 

I took special care during the game last Friday to pay special attention to the larger picture.   

One of the interesting things that I noticed was that there appeared to be mistakes made on every play.  As I reflected back on past games, I concluded that there must be mistakes on every play of EVERY game.  Not only is no one perfect, but no team is perfect and no game is perfect and no play is perfectly executed.    

For just a few minutes on Friday I watched the game looking for both mistakes and adjustments.  Here is what I observed.  I watched teammates in a constant flow of encouraging one another during their victories as well as their struggles.  I watched young men miss tackles, only to have other teammates step up and finish the tackles.  I watched these boys encouraging one another after a bad pass, a dropped ball or a missed block.  I watched coaches pulling athletes aside to correct their mistakes and teach them a better way to play.  It was at this moment that I had an epiphany…“What would it be like if none of those things took place.”

I imagined that the opposing team would run for a score after each missed tackle.  I envisioned players criticizing each other after every mistake.  I concluded that players would continue to make the same mistakes over and over again because no coach would step in to advise them to make adjustments.

I watched a team in unity.  The team lost on Friday, but they lost together.  The root of unity…is unit.  The football team is a unit…and so is the church.  In 2 Thessalonians 3:14-18, Paul teaches on the value of “good” confrontation.  Let’s be honest, no one likes to be confronted.  Yet it is vital to the health of the individual and the unit. 

The ONLY good way to approach confrontation is out of love for the individual and the love of the unit.  Good confrontation brings about peace and grace.

May we come to love Christ, the church and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Saturday, September 23, 2023



I have heard it said that imitation is the best form of flattery.  This can often be the case when you begin dressing exactly like the coolest kid in school…unless of course the coolest kid in school graduated 16 years ago and is now living in the basement of his parent’s home. 

I remember my parents using this phrase when I was a child.

“Mom!!! Ryan’s copying me!!!” cried my frustrated little brother.

“Imitation is the best form of flattery.” My mother encouraged, trying to quiet her obsessively quarreling offspring in the back seat of the Pontiac.

“Mom! He keeps twitching his nose at me!” he insisted.

Silence from the front seat while I continued to mimic my nose twitching younger parasite of a brother. He would cover his eyes so he could not see what I was doing. I did the same.  He grunted and groaned in frustration. I did likewise. 

“Mom!” He won’t stop!”

“Mom! He won’t stop!” I repeated.

“Just ignore him.” My mother retorted.

My little brother turned his shoulder to me, placed his head against the window and went silent looking out the window.  I did the exact thing mirrored to the opposite side of the car.

“Mom! Now Ryan is ignoring me!”

“Good dear, that’s nice!”

Unfortunately, many of my actions in life have not been worth imitating, including the mocking imitations of my little brother and others.  In fact, it is always easier to proclaim, “Do as I say not as I do.” Yet, what we once again see in Paul’s second letter to the Church in Thessalonica, is an invitation to imitate. Paul claims that he, along with Silas and Timothy, has given the church an example to live by.  Paul is encouraging the believers to do what he says AND does.  That is a bold declaration.  How can Paul be so bold?

As I have wrestled with this text, I believe that what I see is Paul’s invitation to imitate is deeper than just action.  I believe Paul’s call is to love and follow Jesus as he loves and follows Jesus.  When we put our full selves behind seeking the Lord, I am convinced that obeying Him becomes a passionate joy and not an effort of obligation. 

Paul invites us to work.  We are called to serve and to work to minister and further the Gospel.  It is indeed a command, but it is a command that follows the greatest command…to love the Lord you God. 

May we love the Lord and passionately follow him that we too can say…”Follow me as I follow Christ.”

Saturday, September 16, 2023


My wife is strange…not the sitting in a dark closet by herself secretly eating trail mix kind of strange…that’s more my cup of tea…though I did catch her once.  But rather, strange in the way where she has repeatedly stated, “I love birthing babies.”  That phrase in of itself is ludicrous.  Though I have never experienced the act of birthing firsthand, I have been present for this crowning event four times.  I have watched the pain.  I have heard the screaming.  I have endured the chaos.  I have massaged my wife’s back and neck tirelessly trying to help her relax in this birthing process.  I have suffered clawing fingernails embedded into my biceps, of which scars may still be visible. 

I remember the first time I heard my wife say those words. 

“Oh Ryan, I just love birthing babies…I want to have another baby.”

“What did you say?”

“I want to have another baby.”

“No…before that.”

“Oh Ryan?”

“No after that.”

“I love birthing babies?”


“What about it?”

“Were you THERE? Do you remember the event? Do you remember the stress and the noise and the pain?”


“That’s weird.”

This conversation has been repeated two additional times resulting in a total of 4 children.  I seem to recall her beginning the phrase since then, but I usually run screaming from the house before she can finish her sentence. 

Perhaps what is most strange…is that despite the challenges that my wife faced during all four of these child birth events…she meant what she said.  This leaves me to conclude that not only is she strange…she is also resilient. 

I remember when our first child was born.  Sarah had been laboring for over 30 hours and she was exhausted.  I was at a loss as to how to encourage her.  “Push!” I said.

“Stop saying that!”

“Oh…um…ok…um…you are doing good…and stuff.”

“Ugh…just be quiet!”

The nurse was also lecturing me… “Step it up man! You are her coach! Help her through this.”

“Umm…ok…ummm…looks like there is another contraction coming…hold on!”

“Zip your lip!!! Why would I want to know when another contraction is coming!”


“Why are you not telling me when the contractions are coming!?”


After Sarah had been pushing for 3 hours…I fell asleep in a chair.  While I slept, she began to slip into a hyperventilating panic.  In hindsight, I really feel that she could have learned something if she had just looked at her calm husband sleeping in the chair next to her. 

The nurse woke me up and barked, “SHE NEEDS TO BREATHE!!”

“Oh…ok…breathe Sarah…”


The nurse shoved me out of the way…grabbed my wife’s face with her right hand…squeezed her cheeks and looked her straight in the eyes. “Breathe with me Sarah,” she asserted, while taking deep measured breaths.

Our daughter was born a few minutes later…blue and screaming.  I came to realize that there is nothing easy about birthing babies, yet the reward of the hard work and perseverance is immeasurable. 

Likewise, the Christian walk is also difficult, and yet promises even greater rewards than childbirth.  Additionally, the Christian walk is also not meant to be walked alone.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:15-3:5, we find Paul praying and asking for prayer.  His prayers are prayers of encouragement and endurance. 

I can’t help but be reminded of Moses standing on the hill while the Israelites fought against the Amalekites.  Moses’ arms grew tired Aaron and Hur were there to encourage him and even help keep his arms raised as the Lord brought victory to the Israelites. 

The Christian walk is difficult, but take heart and be encouraged, the victory in the Lord is sweet!

May you come to faithfully follow the faithful God.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

 Old Faithful


Old Faithful was once known as “Eternity’s Timepiece,” but I think that was before the Apple Watch was introduced. Since its conception in 2015, the Apple Watch has perhaps overtaken Old Faithful with the title. 

“Hey Siri, how tall is Mount Everest?”

“Mount Everest stands 8848.86 meters tall and is the highest point anywhere on the planet earth.”

“Hey Siri, What time is it?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.  Could you repeat that?”

“What time is it?”

“A 12 pound turkey should take 3 ½ hours in the oven at 325 degrees”


“The average size of a Pomeranian is between 3-7 pounds and is 7-12 inches long.”

“Ugh!...fine…what is the temperature?”

“It is 5:38 pm, Central Daylight Time.”

…ok…maybe the Apple Watch has not claimed the title of “Eternity’s Timepiece” just yet.

It was once said that this famous geyser was so faithful that you could set your clocks to the trustworthy waterspout as it burst forth every hour like clockwork. 

However, things are beginning to change with the old water cannon.  What was once a 60 minute interval between eruptions has now come to be around 90 minutes.  This isn’t a real big deal for most people, unless you have hungry children that are whining about being needing food…now!  In which case, you may find yourself waiting longer than expected for the “Little Less Faithful” geyser to fire its load 100 feet into the air.  I have visited this natural wonder twice and in both cases…it was late.  If it would have been up to me…I would have given the geyser a pink slip.

As I have aged, I cannot tell if I have become less trusting, more skeptical or perhaps I just hold a higher expectation of what being faithful really means.  When I was in 10th grade I trusted most of my 10th grade buddies.  Now however, every 10th grade boy that takes a second look at my 10th grade daughter is up to no good…I just know it.”

“Hey!? What are you looking at?”

“Nothing Sir! I mean…I was just going to ask your daughter how she did on her English quiz.”

“Why!? Do you think you can swoop in and smooth talk her with your slick greasy words of English elegance?”

“Nnnn…nn…no Sir!”

“Then scram!”

“Yyyy…yy…yes Sir!”

“You see sweetheart…that is what I have been telling you.  Boys are bad and they cannot be trusted.”

“But Dad…English isn’t even his native language…he is a foreign exchange student from Casablanca.”

“He is NO Bogart! I can tell you that!”

“No Dad! He is a foreign exchange student from Morocco!”

“I rest my case.”

Let’s be honest, it is becoming extremely difficult to find things that are truly faithful and trustworthy in this world.  We struggle to trust politicians, religious leaders, teachers and even…can you believe it, used car salesmen.  Yet, as humans, we continue to resist putting our trust in the ONE person…who is fully faithful and fully trustworthy…Jesus.

As we read 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, we find Paul is continuing to emphasize the work of God in the lives of people.  This passage reveals the faithfulness of God.  The Scriptures testify that God has done everything that he said he would do.  We see this evidence over and over and over again throughout the Bible.  God has NEVER failed.  That…is FAITHFULNESS!

May we come to put our trust in the ONE who is truly faithful! 

Saturday, September 2, 2023



It is no secret that I have an aversion to amusement parks.  I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the heat, and overall I don’t care for the rides.  I am not ashamed to speak of my cowardice, though that has not always been the case.  In fact, I remember that on my first ever excursion to Valleyfair, (Minnesota’s only viable option for outdoor rollercoaster thrill rides), I pretended to be fearless.  Additionally, I mimicked enjoyment secretly loathing the next thrilling “I might die” moment.    

Just last week I was listening to my youngest daughter describe her own recent rides on some of Minnesota’s less than legendary coasters.  She spoke of how on one of the rides, she was harnessed into the attraction with her feet hanging below her and was then hauled “straight up,” and then accelerated “straight down…face first.”

“Wow! How did you like that?”

“Ehhh, I didn’t really want to go on it, but I didn’t want to be the only one who didn’t ride it…so I went on it.” (The apple doesn’t seem to fall too terribly far from the tree.)

“Was that the scariest ride?” I asked.

“It would have been if it hadn’t been for this other one.”

“Which one?”

“The one where my seatbelt came unbuckled and I thought for sure I was going to fall out! In fact, I think that I probably would have if I hadn’t been holding on so tight to the crossbar! I totally thought I was going to die!”

This reminded me of a similar experience that I had had on that pioneering trip to Valleyfair 35 years ago.  My friend Matt had insisted that we ride the “Viking Ship.” 

It looked safe enough.  The swinging ship mostly went back and forth…except for the three times it goes upside down and hangs you there in mid air long enough to allow all of your gumball machine money to fall out of your pockets and into the hands of the pimple faced teenager controlling the ride. 

As we buckled into the ride my “friend” Matt intentionally loosened the lap belt…AND…did not pull the locking shoulder harness tight against us.  Rather he left the harness loose and insisted, “It’s more fun this way!”

In hindsight I can tell you…it was not more fun and just like my daughter, I thought that I was going to die.  I had NEVER held onto anything so tightly in my life…except for maybe the hands of my children while exiting the movie theater after watching The Sound of Freedom. 

An image has come into my mind that ties these moments of fear in our lives with the security that only God offers.  It is no secret that we as Americans are obsessed with security.  We have locks, dead bolts, car alarms, security cameras, door bell cameras, dogs, baseball bats, broom sticks, tennis rackets, golf clubs and in some cases a rubber spatula, to help protect our things.  We tend to hold onto our stuff too tightly, trying to do all that we can to keep our possessions from being taken from us.

Sometimes I wonder if we do the same thing with God.  We try and hold on to God so tightly trying to never let him go.  Perhaps we fret and work at doing the right things so that we will be accepted.  We might even be afraid that if I slip up and sin that I will somehow lose my grip on God and lose my salvation.  I think Paul is revealing something very noteworthy in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.  Here the Thessalonian believers are so afraid of missing out on the Day of the Lord…and the salvation that God has promised, yet, Paul is insisting that they have not missed anything.  Paul reveals that they are secure…they are in the grip of God’s grace.  Perhaps it is not about how tightly we are holding on to God…but how tightly HE is holding onto us.

May we remember the words of Jesus in John 10:28-29 where he assures us that no one can snatch us from His hand…nor the Father’s hand.