Saturday, December 23, 2023

 A Star


A couple of years ago my wife and I were sitting around a fire with some close friends.  I was kind enough to bring the fuel for the fire, which I had an abundance of, having just remodeled our kitchen countertops. 

“Are those things safe to burn?”

“What could be bad about it?  Fire is fire…burning is burning.” I replied.

“The green flames suggest that maybe it’s toxic.”

“So are cigarettes, but people smoke those all the time.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“Good…then if you hold your breath now…you should be just fine.”

As I was throwing another laminated slab onto the toxic, green fire I noticed a line of moving stars moving across the sky. My first thought was that the green smoke might very well be hallucinogenic, until my wife also notice and asked, “What in the world is that?”

“I have no idea…but I am glad that I am not the only one who is seeing this…do you think we ought to call Area 51?”

“Not yet…let’s see if they take Andrew up into their ship and do any tests on him first.”

The long line of stars continued to pass overhead.  One after the other they moved and for a while I wondered if there was ever an end to the constant stream of new stars.

The four of us stared in astonishment, contemplating what the meaning of the sequential line of stars could be.  Perhaps Jesus was coming back…after all, there was one star when he was born…maybe this was Jesus with a line of angel soldiers coming back…or…it’s just super rich Elon Musk taking over the world with Starlink satellites.  It ended up being the latter.  We learned this when we all pulled out our smartphone and looked it up on the spot. 

This makes me wonder…at the wonder…that the Magi would have experienced in discovering a new star that had suddenly appeared in the sky.  Perhaps even more so, the wonder of finding the Christ child after the long pursuit of following that star. 

What strikes me the most is their reaction upon finding Jesus.  Here we have wise astrologers from the east…pagans…Gentiles…worshipers of idols and false gods, and when they find Jesus, they do something that not even the religious leaders and the teacher of the law would do.  They worship the King.  They worship the King of the Jews…they worship the Christ.

When we come to look for Jesus this Christmas, may our response be the same…to worship the King…to worship the Christ.

Saturday, December 16, 2023



I have never been known for my ability to grow facial hair.  This is disappointing, especially when considering how my dad and both brothers can grow fabulous beards and I am left with the mediocre allotment of facial hair sequestered to the tip of my chinny chin chin. 

Despite these inadequacies, I remember my boss confronting me each day as I walked into The Pizza Hut for my delivery shift while in college.

“Ryan! You need to shave!”

“Why? I just shaved last week!”

“You need to shave every day before work.  That is the rule. Now go into the back room and shave with the used rusty razor in the back.”

I did as he said.  In fact, I did as he said each day as I arrived for work unshaven. 

After having shorn my three to five whiskers, I grabbed my first delivery and darted to my 1991 Ford Escort.  I quickly worked the manual transmission of the 1.9 liter, four cylinder efficiently through the icy narrow streets of Excelsior, Minnesota. I pulled up behind the targeted house on Maple Street and left the engine running.  The quicker I moved, the more deliveries I could take and thus the more tips I could make on a given night.  This was important to me in lieu of needing to save up enough money for an engagement ring for my girlfriend…or a boat…I hadn’t decided yet. (Note to the reader…I chose the boat first…but please don’t tell my wife).

I ran to the door, heeding my boss’s mantra, “Fast on your feet and not on the seat.” I swung the storm door open, held it in place with my backside, feeling the hydraulic closer pressing up against my back.  I knocked on the door and when the homeowner revealed himself, I read back the order with the skill of an auctioneer, received the payment and the tip and dashed back to my running Escort allowing the storm door to crash closed behind me. 

As I ran, I was briefly troubled by the abrupt tug and crash that came from the no longer visible storm door.  Additionally, I began to sense the winter cold penetrating me in a way that had not been there moments ago.  When I reached my Ford and crawled in, it became apparent that some of my uniform was no longer with me.  In fact, the required black slacks of my Pizza Hut attire had been replaced in the back with white BVD’s. 

I knew that the boss would not approve of my uniform alterations, so as when I returned to the store I found a roll of duct tape and went to work securing my torn slacks with silver gray adhesive strips. 

It was several deliveries later when my boss took issue with my new look. 

“Ryan?! What is the deal with your pants? You cannot wear that.  You know our uniform policy, and we expect you to adhere to it strictly.”

“Well sir…here’s the thing…I ripped my pants and…”

“Never mind…I don’t want to know.”

Needless to say, I was not allowed to work again until I had replaced the black pants…and shaved.

It makes sense that my boss had to hold to a line that would preserve the image and integrity of the Pizza Hut company.  Yet, in my reading of the scriptures this week, (Matthew 1:18-25),I have found myself astounded by what would appear to his friends, family and culture, that Joseph, the husband of Mary, forsook all of his self preservation and laid himself vulnerable and bare to criticism, ridicule and shame. 

Joseph had a good and well known reputation and he was willing to let all of that go when God asked him to take Mary to be his wife.  Joseph was willing to obey God and let his preserved reputation go to the wayside. 

I wonder how often I choose to preserve my own reputation over trusting God. How often do I consider what people will think of me over doing what is right and following Jesus?  I am willing to bet that I am not alone in this realization.  I suspect that most of mankind may find themselves in a constant struggle of worrying about how they will be viewed by others.  If we are honest with ourselves, I believe that we will see how we tirelessly work to preserve our own reputations. 

May we come to celebrate the righteousness of Christ…even at the cost of our own reputations!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

With Us

Since the world shutdown of 2020, my wife has made a point of investing in relationships with friends and family, including regular calls to her mother.  She values the relationship and works to keep the two of them close, despite nearly 800 physical miles separating the two cities of Little Falls, MN and Dearborn, MI.   When relationship is important you will work to foster the relationship. Technology has helped bring long distant relationships of the space age Jetson’s, Star Trek and Back to the Future into a tangible reality with apps like Zoom and Facetime. 

Despite these advances, hearing someone’s voice and even seeing someone’s face is just not the same as being in their presence.  This is the concept that I hold to and answers the question of why I do not call my own mother every day…I would rather see her face to face. 

“Why don’t you call me like Sarah calls her mom?”

“Because Mom…I would just rather talk to you face to face.”

“Your brother at least calls me once a week.”

“He is probably just bored or wants you to send him some cookies.”

“I did send him some cookies.”

“What!? Why didn’t you send me cookies?”

“I would if you would call me!”

“I will be there for Thanksgiving…but he won’t…I will just eat cookies then…and pie…and lefse…”

“It’s just not the same.”

“I know…it’s better!”

I know that my wife cherishes her conversations, but even more so, cherishes her time together with her mother. 

In the recent past, my wife decided to surprise her mother and flew to Michigan without telling her.  As she arrived at her mother’s house, she called her mother at their usual time to chat.  Then, while the two of them were sharing their regular conversation, my wife walked into her mother’s home and stared at her mother face to face while they both still held the phone to their ears.  The phones were quickly put away in exchange for hugs and kisses and a long weekend of fellowship.

I see an image of Christmas in this story.  Since the beginning of mankind, God has had and has sought relationship with his creation…whom he loves.  Yet, something incredible took place on that first Christmas.  That is the day that God met us…mankind…face to face…through the face of a baby.  Isaiah 7:14 says, the “Virgin will give birth to a son and his name will be called Immanuel…God with us.”

Christmas changed everything…we now have God with us.  He was in the flesh when he first came and he will come in the flesh again.  In the meantime, we still have God with us…His Spirit living in those who have put their faith in Jesus.

May you come to know What Child this Is…He is the King of Kings…He is Immanuel…He is God with us.

Saturday, December 2, 2023


As I watched another Thanksgiving Day pass, I reflected on some Thanksgiving days of the past.  Despite popular belief, I did not attend the first feast with the pilgrims.  However, each Thanksgiving dinner in our family holds to some of the national recognized traditions including a roasted turkey, cranberry sauce (though I refuse to slice mine from a can), mashed potatoes, stuffing and, of course, pumpkin pie. 

I recalled one year when I had invited myself…and my family out to my brother’s house in South Dakota for Thanksgiving dinner. 

“Hey Ross!?  How are you?  What are you plans for this weekend?  What time are you eating? Ok…we’ll be there…see you then!”

I am pleased to report that he did not serve the Peanuts special of popcorn, toast and jelly beans.  He did however make me provide the turkey and the pumpkin pie.  We baked the pies ahead of time but not the turkey…that we brought raw. Unfortunately, as we pulled into his driveway, one of my daughters was so excited to see her cousins that as she rushed out of the van, she put her little size 6 right into one of the pies.  It still tasted like pumpkin, so we ate it…plus the massive cavity provided additional vacant space to fill with whipped cream.

One year for Thanksgiving, my family went up to my parents’ place to enjoy the day with family.  The unfortunate aspect of this particular year was the fact that my dad happened to be violently ill with a kidney infection and he kept walking through the dining room…while we were eating…to vomit in the bathroom.  I thought about offering him a 30 gallon garbage can that he could use until we were done with the pie…but I refrained…I guess I am just humble that way.

There was a year before Sarah and I had children that we again decided to head up to my parents place for Thanksgiving.  We had been contemplating the purchase of a new vehicle and a friend offered to sell us her car.  She even offered to allow us to take it for the extended weekend and test drive it.  What she neglected to tell us, however, was that the gas gauge did not work…and that ¼ tank realistically translated into empty.  We did not learn this nuance until we were between Little Falls, MN and Randall, MN. 

This got me to thinking about hope.  On that unfortunately eventful Thanksgiving morning, I “hoped” that there would be enough fuel in the tank to get us to Randall where we could fill up before finishing the trek. The interesting thing was that as soon as the fuel was gone…so was the hope.  There was no longer any hope of making it to the meal on time, getting the first slice of pumpkin pie, or staying warm inside a running automobile.  With the red Lumina stranded on the side of Highway 10, we walked several miles home to get a gas can and the other car.

When we lose hope, we risk falling into despair.  There are so many things in this chaotic world that we can try and place our hope in.  Yet, I am convinced that each worldly hope will all leave us hopeless and falling into eventual despair.  At some point we will “run out of gas.”  There IS however ONE hope that will NEVER run out or will NEVER run dry…and that is the HOPE found only in Jesus.    

At Christmas, we remember when that Hope first came into the world.  We remember the birth of the Christ child.  The Israelites had waited in hope for hundreds, even thousands of years for the promised Messiah.  Even during all of that time, the True Hope continued, because the True Hope is based on the promises of God.

Likewise we wait in hopeful anticipation for that same Jesus to return.  Though we may wonder when this return will happen, we need not lose hope because His returns is based on the same promises made by the same God.

Even though I may run out of gas…yet will I hope…in Him.