Saturday, April 20, 2024


One Halloween, my daughter decided to dress up in one of the scariest costumes I had ever encountered.  She found one of my old hats and went digging through my closet, looking for a specific shirt of mine that she obviously had in mind.  Before donning the hat, she stretched an ugly, bald skin wig over her head and tucked her hair up into the tight skull cap.  She painted her face with dark, grotesque marks, covering her chin and around her lips.  She grabbed my favorite stainless steel coffee up and said, “I’m ready!”

“Eeek! You look scary! Who or what are you supposed to be!?” I squawked.

“I’m you!”

“What!? I look nothing like that! Except for maybe the lack of hair…the shirt…the hat…and the facial hair…”

“Sure you do…not only do I look like you…I can act like you…watch this!” She began to carry herself in mannerisms that were strikingly similar to that of my own.  Additionally, she began saying things like, “Great Scott!,” “That could be catastrophic!,” “Listen to your mother!,” and “Wow, my back hurts…and my knees…and my neck…and my head…they all hurt!”

I was both astounded…and offended, as to how accurately she could display me.  She knew things about me that I don’t even think I was aware of.  She was able to reveal a picture of what I looked like to everyone around her, including myself. 

She knew me well enough to be able to share an image of what her father really looked like.  I was imitated so well that even a complete stranger would have been able to pick me out of a police lineup. 

Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul is speaking towards when he invites believers to, “follow me as I follow Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  There is really only one way that any believer in Jesus could ever say such a statement.  Before a follower of Christ could offer up such an invitation, that person must reflect the attributes of God.  When our movements and actions mimic the attributes of God, people take notice.  When mercy is shown, people pay attention.  When Biblical meekness is exercised, Jesus’ character is reflected. When we respond to people with a pure heart we find once again that the reflection of God is revealed.  In fact, I am convinced that when a Christ follower responds to others, in love with a pure heart, not only will they “see God,” (Matthew 5:8), but also reveal God’s love as it exemplifies His pure heart. 

May we come to pursue the greatest commands of God, to love God and to love our neighbors, with a pure heart, knowing that God will be revealed.

Saturday, April 13, 2024


Most of the boys, and a few the girls, in Mr. Halling’s 6th grade class would line up at recess to await their turn to demonstrate their authority, cunning, strength and tenacity in our own version of Fight Club.  We had rules for our Fight Club.

1.      You don’t talk about Fight Club.

2.      You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

3.      When someone says or yells “Mercy!” it’s over

4.      Only two people at a time.

5.      No biting.

6.      No kicking.

7.      Both hands must be held.

8.      No holding hands.

9.      Wait…what??

Competitors were bracketed and the winner of each duel would advance to the next round while the non-winner, (we called them losers in those days), was eliminated.  Each competition would begin when two people would face each other, put their hands up, press them together, interlace the fingers, squeeze…and wait.  An official, (non participating competitor), would say go, and the two individuals would grip and twist the hands, arms and fingers attempting to create such a painful experience for their opponent that their adversary would cry out, “Mercy!” 

I was reasonably good at this later elementary school torturous pastime.  I had good flexibility. I was respectfully strong, quicker than some, smarter than others and had 3 siblings at home to crush, pulverize and torture for practice.  During this particular tournament, I had made it to the quarter finals and was about to face a small, but squirrely, adversary named Matt.  He was a lot like a chipmunk. He was quick, chatty and easily squashed.  I made quick work of him, twisting him into submission in mere seconds.  I now prepared to meet Benson in the semifinals.

Benson was a Behemoth of a student.   He was a man squashed into the body of an overly tall 6th grader.  He was brilliant, always scoring near the top of the class in all subjects but lacked, at times, common sense.  He had me outsized by several inches, and his arms were as large as my legs.  We grasped hands and he smiled at me.  He had a nice smile.  He was a nice kid…very kind. As far as we knew he had no first name…just Benson.  He was like a Spartan among toddlers…but a nice Spartan.


I watched the kind face of Benson morph into the grotesque feature of a demon possessed Leviathan.   

“Eeek! Who are you?!” I squawked as he began to bend me in half. “What did you do with Benson?”

“I’m your worst nightmare!” He chortled.

I swear I saw him salivating and drooling as I began to grimace in pain.

“Say it!” He screamed. “Say it! Say it!”

I cowered beneath his bloodlust.

“Say it!”

“Say what!” I begged.

“Mercy!” He giggled.

“Ryan wins!” the official announced.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.  I had done it! I had made the finals.  The best part of making the finals is that you got to go against Christine DeClouster.  Everyone was enamored with Christine.  She was perhaps the loveliest girl in all of 6th grade and perhaps the most vicious.  I had yearned for this moment.  Not to win…but just to hold her hands…which I did…for about 3 second before I was screaming, “Mercy!” as her finger nails tore the flesh away from my knuckles.

Mercy…we all need it, and yet, often withhold it.  We struggle between the contrast of justice and mercy.  We are, at times” the first to expect it, but the last to offer it.  We cannot fully grasp the anomaly that is the just and merciful God. Both attributes are fully present in His fullness. God reveals his desire for us to be like him in this. Micah 6:8, “He has shown you…what is good and what the Lord requires of you. To act justly and to love mercy…”

Jesus calls us to mercy in even stronger language.  Matthew 5:7 states, “Blessed are those who show mercy for that shall be shown mercy.”

May we come to see the mercy that we have been shown and show the mercy of God to others as a testimony of who He is.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

 I Can’t Wait


I arrived home after services this past Easter Sunday and I was famished.  I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.  Unless, of course you count the multiple slices of banana bread, of which I had just stuffed my face with 30 minutes prior.  Incidentally, I was still famished…very famished and I felt that I just could not wait for Easter Dinner.  I walked into the kitchen, only to find that the beautiful ham dinner, mashed potatoes and dinner rolls was still cooking and wouldn’t be ready for several minutes. 

It is at this time that I may or may not have attempted to snitch some pretzels to pacify my urges, only to have my hand swatted away before I could even reach into the bag.  This was just as well, since someone had crushed the entire bag of pretzels into pulverized crumbs and they were hardly worth eating.  Who even does something like that??

I find that life is filled with yearnings.  Food is often near the top of my list of yearnings, but so are activities like hunting and fishing and hiking and biking.  I frequently find myself longing for days and events of the future, which promise to be filled with satisfying experiences and opportunities.

Take camping for example.  I love camping, and I yearn for the quiet getaway in the woods where I can sit by the warm crackling fire and sleep in the cool night air.  It all sounds so satisfying.  Until…it isn’t.  My longings of restful camping have at times turned into longings for home.  Like when the clear evening suddenly turns stormy and leaves the electrical system in the camper shorting out and constantly tripping the breakers. The desire for camping ebbs when mosquitoes chase you away from the campfire and into the camper and still they find a way into the temporary shelter only to leave your hands, arms, neck, legs and feet covered in dozens of itchy bites.  The aspirations of camping wane when you wake in the morning yearning for a cup of hot coffee but realize that, you have no electricity and the matches are soaked from having been left overnight in the rain next to what had been the fire.

Like camping, so many things that promise satisfaction, only leave one left with the feeling of longing and dissatisfaction.  What you had thought would satisfy…doesn’t.  The experience may have been good…but the satisfaction that came with it doesn’t last or it was not what you thought that it would be.  What you had originally yearned for has morphed into a desire for something else.

There are so many things in life that I truly enjoy. These are things that I long for and even find a sense of satisfaction in…even if only temporary.   Yet, there is only ONE thing that I believe can truly satisfy, and that is Jesus.  I know that we may hear this statement a great deal and perhaps we struggle to believe it.  Jesus, himself, speaks of this truth on several occasions in the Scriptures, including John 4, but also, He speaks of it in a short phrase during His Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.” 

Oh, what it would be like to be satisfied?  It would be like being able to Easter dinner forever, without getting full and without feeling hungry.  You get to enjoy every bite.  You get to indulge in its full flavor and exceptional texture without worrying about over eating and without worrying about having enough.  It is perfect satisfaction.

We get a taste of the satisfaction that Jesus has to offer here on this earth, but it is merely an appetizer of what is to come in the perfect satisfaction that is promised for eternity.

May you find yourself yearning for the righteousness of Christ, because only in Him can you find complete satisfaction. 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

 The Trade


I’ve got problems. For the most part, I am ok with this fact, mostly because…so do you.  In fact, we all have problems, it’s just that some of us know it and some of us don’t.  Yet, even with that reality, I (we) likely have problems that I (we) am still as of yet, totally unaware that I (we) have. 

For example, a week ago I was driving home on a Saturday, after having spent some time reviewing and tweaking my sermon for the Sunday morning service.  I had spent some time at the office as well as the local bakery.  Some of my best work is done with a donut being stuffed between my teeth.  Overall, it was a problem free morning.  Yet, as I entered into the three block radius of my home, I noticed a Silver Dodge Grand Caravan parked in front of a neighbor’s home.  The vehicle looked strikingly similar to the one that my daughter is currently the primary operator of. 

Though there are Silver Dodge Grand Caravan’s in nearly every block of every city in the continental United States, it seemed to me that even from a distance that this was, indeed, our van.  There are a few unique indicators that set our vehicle apart from others, such as the dark bug deflector on the hood, the half eroded Little Falls Cross Country decal on the rear window…the rust…the bald tires…the tiny little bright colored plastic ducks and chicks lining the dashboard, the Holstein patterned steering wheel cover, and of course the “baby Yoda” phone cradle on the heating vent. 

I find it interesting how my children have taken to personalizing these vehicles that are still titled in my name.  My daughter has placed all kinds of scents and fresheners and accents to the inside of her vehicle. While my son’s vehicle is filled with filthy football clothes, cleats, sweaty shirts, fishing gear, (including portable ice house and auger), and one oversized stuffed Mickey Mouse doll pulled from a neighbor’s dumpster.

Despite how much ownership as they have taken to these cars,  their “ownership” seems to suddenly go out the window when the cost of repairing the power steering, the dead battery or the wheel that falls off on the way to school, becomes a factor of ownership.

As I drew near the van on this Saturday afternoon, my first instinct was to question what boy lived at this house and why my daughter was parked here, along with what must I do to this now unfortunate teenager?  I soon found that this was not the issue and a teenage boy was not my immediate problem. Yet, my Saturday afternoon was by no means problem free.  It appeared that while I was away from the house working, problems were arising that I had no idea were becoming a reality.  The left rear tire of the van was flat…in fact it was entirely mangled.  The tire was not unlike a tough steak that has been chewed and spit out, being too tough to swallowed. 

It was time to fix yet another problem. 

About 120 minutes, and dollars, later the problem was fixed.

There are other problems in life that time and money cannot fix. 

In fact, there is a problem that all humans face; though not all may be aware of the problem.  We may be driving through this life, totally unaware that there is a proverbial van with a flat tire that needs our attention. 

Our greatest problem…My greatest problem, is not a flat tire.  It is sin.  I know that I sin.  I know that I sin a whole lot more that I care to admit or even am aware of.  I, like all humans, have a propensity to justify my actions and pretend that I live a pretty good life…a life that is not as bad as others.  Yet, the biblical truth is that my sin condemns me to death and an eternity in Hell.  Yep! The Bible talks about a real place called Hell and that is where I belong.  In fact, that is the ONLY place that I am headed unless my sin problem is repaired and I have NO ability to fix my sin problem. 

Yet, I know that is not where I am headed.  Not because I have done some secret task or earned enough credits from good deeds somehow building up imaginary karma.  It is because of what we celebrate at Easter.  When Jesus went to the Cross, he fixed my sin problem.  2 Corinthians 5:21, tells us of how Jesus fixes our sin problem.  It says that He, Jesus, who had never committed one single sin…BECAME sin.  Jesus offers us a trade.  He makes a trade with us...he takes our sin…though he is innocent…and in return he gives us His righteousness. 

If you want to engage in this incredibly unfair trade: all you have to do is agree with it.  “Ok, Jesus…let me get this straight…You will take my sin…and give me your Holiness?...Your Righteousness?...Your Perfectness?...if I simply ask you to do it?”


“How can this be the case?”

“Because the tomb is empty! I am ALIVE! All Authority has been given to me!  I can do it, because it is finished!  What do you say?  Will you follow me?”

Saturday, March 23, 2024


It is possible that safety is an overrated concern for some parents, and a constant obstacle of interference for adolescent boys.  It has produced a never ending battle between mothers and sons.  Mothers diligently strive to keep their young boys safe from the foolish decisions that promise unavoidable injury, further brain damage, or even death.  Boys, on the other hand, cunningly scheme to overcome the safety precautions that have been unfairly placed upon them.  For example, a potentially hypothetical situation may find a mother whose 8 year old son has been using a ladder to climb onto the roof of their home.  He does this to gain the high ground in attempt to shoot unsuspecting squirrels, gophers, and crows from the peak of the second story gable end. 

“Ryan! What in the world are you doing up there!?!”

“I am shooting at squirrels and gophers and birds and stuff!”

“Where did you get the gun?”

“Dad gave it to me!”

“Get down from there now! It’s not safe!”



“Drat…I missed.”



Now you would think that the problem would be solved when the mother insisted to have the ladder put away and locked up to prevent the possibility of a repeat offense.  However, it could happen, that as the mother was hanging the bed sheets out on the clothes line she once again heard, “Bang. Bang.” followed by “Drat…I missed.”

“Ryan! What are you doing up there?!…HOW did you get up there?!”

“I crawled through the window and shimmied up the eave.”

As much as they try, mothers only have so much power to keep their curious sons safe.

I remember one spring day when I was climbing a tree. 

My mother had reprimanded me on several occasions for climbing trees.  Each time, I would be cautioned about my lack of safety for either climbing too high or not holding onto anything with my hands.  It seemed obvious to me that tree climbing would be safer with a ladder.  This truth must have been overlooked by my mother or she may not have taken it away from me.    

I took my mother’s concerns to heart and thus made several adjustments to safeguard my own safety for this expedition.  First, I selected a tree that my mother did not yet know about.  I did this to ensure that she could not come back to me and say, “I thought I told you not to climb that tree.” 

If she attempted to make such a statement, I could simply reply…“Not this one…that was a different tree.”  As you can see, I was a pretty thoughtful and obedient child.

Second, I built my “own” ladder with some old wood that I had found in the barn. 

Third, I tied a big heavy rope around my chest and allowed it to hang loosely behind me as I ascended.

Once my safety precautions were in place, I set to work.  I climbed the old elm easily, bouncing and swinging through its natural sturdy beams.  The large, heavy limbs generated a vast array of hand and footholds protruding in every direction.  As I reached a deep Y, half way up the towering deciduous, I lowered myself into a yawn between the limbs and tied off the loose end of the rope…and then…I slipped.  I tried to snatch a limb on my way down, but the abrasive bark only served to bruise, cut and batter my entire body on the way down.  Three feet before my face met the base of the elm, the rope tied around my chest slipped to my waist and snapped tight holding me fast. 

The good news was that my face was spared the maiming impact of the earth below.  The bad news was that the Old Timer jack knife that my grandfather had given me slipped from my pocket and fell to the ground.

Looking back on my childhood, I have come to realize that strength is only as good as the cord that is holding you.  Self confidence and pride can easily build as we gain abilities and talents.  Naturally, this brings into our lives a sense of self assurance and boldness.  It is often at these times when the pride comes before the fall…sometimes proverbially…sometimes literally. 

Matthew 5:5 states, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”  Meekness is not something that is championed in our culture.  Yet, that is what Jesus exemplified.  One of the most astounding moments of both His meekness and majesty are reflected in his entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.  Why can Jesus be so meek?  I think that, perhaps, it may be because He knows how secure He is in the strong cord that holds Him tight to the Father.

May we come to see that meekness is relying on the strength of the Lord and not on ourselves.

Saturday, March 16, 2024



My life is filled with regret.  I can’t help it. It seems, every day of my life leads to more regretful moments.  Regret is like that unwelcomed and uninvited uncle who always shows up to Easter dinner, even when great pains are taken to keep the hosting venue a secret. 

“Grandma, can you please pass the ham?”

“Egad! What do you think you’re doing!? Keep your voice down! Uncle Anson will hear you!”

“How in the world is that even possible? He doesn’t know where we are and the last we heard from him he was in the Himalayan Mountains of southern Chile.”

“The Himalayans are in Asia…not Chile.”

“That makes it all the more impossible for him to have heard.”

Ding Dong.

“Hey all! Happy Easter!”

“Well! Would you look who’s here!? It’s Uncle Anson!...How did you find us…I mean…I hope you got the Easter invite this year…we left it under that big rock behind the barn, under the old rusted tractor.”

“I must have missed it! But no worries, here I am! You all have no idea how difficult it has been to find you…but I did!  Who would have thought that a destination Easter dinner in the bowels of Alcatraz was in the cards for this year! Could I get me some of those mashed potatoes?”

Regret…kind of makes you wish you hadn’t asked for the ham…despite Grandma’s reputation for delectable hams.

Like the inevitable arrival of the unwanted guest are the perpetual visits of regret.  Regret appears everywhere.  It is there when we miss our highway exit and find that we have just added 2 hours onto our already 12 hour road trip. It is opening the jar of peanuts believing that you can have just one serving, only to find that the jar is empty in your hands just 33 minute later.  It is telling yourself that you have enough gas to make it to the next gas station, knowing full well that you are pushing it pretty thin, only to run out 5 miles before the fueling station…without an empty gas can to even carry any fuel back to the stranded vehicle. 

Regret often runs deep…much deeper…as well.  Regret follows the allowance of irresponsible words which spill from between the lips and wilt the recipient with a crushing blow.  It is the unjustified burst of anger that conflicts with a testimony of grace, of which a believer is called to reflect.  Regret comes to visit when a poor action results in loss…the loss of life, freedom, affection or more. 

My life is cluttered with regret, like a long forgotten storage room in the unfinished basement of my soul. The space is filled with old dusty mistakes that lie dormant in the corner waiting to be remembered and suffered over from time to time.  As life goes on, the regretful basement of my soul continues to collect junk.  My sin is the greatest contributor to the junk of regret filling the cellar.

Unless something is done, the soul…my soul…will soon be overrun with the burdensome regrets of grieving mistakes and unattended sin.  Jesus not ONLY offers forgiveness of my sins…but he also offers a path of healing through the mourning of my sin.  Matthew 5:4 reveals that “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”  Jesus certainly offers comfort from our grief, but I am learning that in the case of this passage, Jesus is drawing his followers into a deeper mourning.  He is drawing us into a grief…a mourning…over our sin.  Not only do followers of Christ need to be aware of their spiritual bankruptcy (as found in Matthew 5:3), but we are also told to mourn over the sin that has left us there.

It is one thing to sin and hide it in the basement and it is quite another to mourn over our sin.  When we learn to grieve over our sin in such a way as to mourn over it, I am convinced that we find Jesus not only forgiving us of our sin, but also de-cluttering the overrun basement of our souls.

May we come to grieve and to mourn our sin, so that we will be comforted by Jesus Himself.  May the comforts of Jesus lift up our weary souls. 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

 The Majestic

I recall one evening when Sarah and I were still without children.  We would have thought that we were living a busy lifestyle at this time, but until we decided to parent 4 kids, we really had no idea what a busy lifestyle really looked like.  Yet, somehow a telemarketer had tricked me into using the ONE…“free”…evening that my wife and I been able to find for the entire month. 

“What do you want to do tonight” I asked Sarah.

“It doesn’t matter…I am just glad that we don’t have anything to do…period!!” She sighed in response to my question.


“Who is at the door?” she bequeathed.

“I have no idea.”

I answered the door to find a young man and a young woman standing at our door with a clipboard and a rather large chrome cylinder resembling that of a silver R2D2.

“Hello Mr. Olson, we would like to thank you for having us.  If you will just step aside and allow us to enter your home I think that you will find your time with us to be very worthwhile.”

I stepped aside and said nothing.  I was stunned and struck dumb.

Finally, I stammered, “Excuse me…what? Who did you say you were?”

“My name is Heather and this is Michael, we represent the Majestic Cleaning Company, we carry the world’s foremost cleaning and filtering products.  We sure appreciate you agreeing to have us into your home and give you a demonstration of these fabulous appliances that can revolutionize your home.”

“I don’t remember to agreeing to anyth…”

“Sure you did.  If you remember the phone call you received on November 14,…we have it recorded so there will be NO arguing…there was a brief moment when you said yes…and we took full advantage of “that”…to take advantage of “you” and your free evening.  Now if you would just kindly get out of our way…go ahead and sit down and shut your trap while we give you this remarkable demonstration.”

I did as I was told, trying to avoid the shocked and glaring looks of my beautiful young wife.

“What did you agree to!?” Sarah tersely whispered to me as we sat down next to each other on our used sofa.

“Nothing…I mean…I don’t know!”

“This was our ONE night!...ONE night!”

“I know…maybe we will still have time to enjoy something once they leave?”

After 3 hours of demonstrating how great their product was and…how filthy our home was, the sales representative, Heather, asked how much I would expect to pay for this fine tool of the future.

“Are you asking how much I am willing to pay or how much I expect it to cost? Because I MIGHT consider paying up to $60, but I am guessing that it will cost more like $260.”

“So, you are willing to pay $60”

“NO! I am willing to ‘consider’ paying $60”

“Well…would you consider paying $60 per month for three and a half years?”

I did the quick math. “Wait…are you saying this costs $2500!!!???’

“Technically, $2600.”

“No way!”

“But you saw all that it can do! Don’t you want a clean home?”

“Not for $2600!”


This was my turn to interrupt. “You don’t understand. We really don’t buy anything.  In fact, if you look around this home most of all that you see has been given to us. We didn’t purchase most of what you wee.  That recliner that you are sitting in?…given to us.  This sofa? Given.  The end tables, coffee table and dining room table? All given to us.  The refrigerator, the microwave, the oven…given.  Our washer and dryer down stairs…given.  The TV and VCR (yes…I did just date myself)…given.  That china hutch…given.  I even built our bed with wood that was given to us.”

“What about your car?” He asked is a mildly snarky tone.

“GIVEN TO US!!!” I proclaimed in triumph!

“Heather, you must understand” I continued, “Pretty much all that you see around you is nothing that I have gathered and accumulated for myself.  Rather it is all representative of the provisions that the Lord has provided.” 

Heather and Michael left a short time later after packing up all of their demonstrative items.  As they left through our front door…they GAVE us a fake Christmas tree for our time.

I remember that story well, but I never made the connection until now,  of how this symbolized the Lord’s righteousness in my life.  Every good thing in my life has come from the hand of God.  The ONLY righteousness that can be found in my life is what falls under the cloak of Christ’s righteousness, which covers me.  The home of my heart is filled with righteous furnishings that have ALL been given to me by Jesus.  If it were up to me, my “home,” would be found void and empty and broken.  He however, covers me in His righteousness.  Without Jesus, I am spiritually bankrupt.

I think this is at the heart of Jesus’ teachings specifically the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12.  Those who want to inherit the Kingdom of God, must first find themselves…spiritually bankrupt.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

 Walking Alone

Yesterday, my son Isaac and I engaged in a brief excursion to spend 24 hours with my dad ice fishing.  On our trip northward, my truck began to act up.  Truth be told…that is not a true statement.  The truth would be that the truck had been acting up for about a two and a half years and I have continued to ignore the problem.  The acting up in this particular moment, actually refers to a transition from “acting up” to… “Houston, we have a problem.”  It appears that the growing moaning of the 4.3L V6 over the past 700+ days has developed into an alternator which is now refusing to charge the battery.  I watched as the voltmeter bounced erratically from right to left.  One moment the system was charging and the next moment the blinking red light on the dash told me that I should be ready to walk the rest of the way to the cabin.  I spent the next 45 minutes watching and hoping and praying that I would not have to walk in the bitter and blustery cold February afternoon. Praise be to God…we made it!

I cannot count the number of times that I have found myself stranded on the side of the road and having to walk alone down the highway looking for some way to find help. I have run out of gas. I have had flat tires…without a spare…or a flat spare…or a tire that was rusted to the hub and could not be removed to use the spare…or two flat tires simultaneously.  I have also found myself in snowy ditches, and with stalled engines.  Each of these moments has required me to extract myself from the comforts of the cockpit and put my feet to the pavement and walk…alone.

I am please to say…that I am still here.  In every one of those occasions, in one way or another, help arrived.  It did not always appear in a way that I had expected, yet I found that even after a few miles left behind, I found myself in the presence of a helper.

It seems that perhaps…I was never really walking alone after all.

Matthew 4:23-25, reveals Jesus walking.  He is walking all throughout Galilee and beyond.  He is not alone, as to the fact that many people…including his disciples…are following him.  But more so, I think I see that Jesus is walking with the purpose of being WITH the people.  He is walking WITH them.  I find myself asking the question, why?  Is it just to reveal his power as he heals and performs miracles?  Certainly that is entirely true.  I am convinced that there is more still.  I am convinced that Jesus CARES!! He walks with the people, because he cares for them. He cares about their struggle, their diseases and their affliction.  He also cares about yours.

May you come to know that no matter where you are walking, whether hardships or joys, you are not walking alone…because Jesus cares!!

Saturday, February 10, 2024


I used to be an energetic, adventurous father, who would regularly take my young children out of town  to shop, in order to give their dear mother a break from the unending demands of mothering. These outings had a reputation of going about as smoothly as expired cottage cheese forgotten in the back of an unplugged refrigerator, only to be discovered accidentally after a stench, not dissimilar to that of a rotting dairy cow, as it permeates its way through the entire shelter that is your home.

It is incredibly challenging to shepherd 3-4 children 6 years old and younger from one store to another.  The hazards of parking lots, moving cars, busy streets and rabid squirrels can add chaos to any and all attempts to keep the children safe and within arm’s reach. 

I had created circumstantial rules, which were to be implemented upon the arrival, and were dependent upon specific situations.  For example, if I were to take the children into a store that had many fragile items placed in the accessible regions of curious fingers, the children were required to keep their hands placed within the confines of their own pockets during the duration of the visit. If they did not obey and removed their hands from their pockets, the privilege of ice cream was removed from their immediate future. 

As another example, if we were crossing the street, the children were required to hold my hands so that I could ensure their safety.  On more than one occasion, one of my children would trip because their little legs could not keep up with my giant frame, or so they now claim. When a stumble would occur, I would snatch them up and swing them in the air and run, allowing their small bodies to flap in the wind until we had finished crossing. “Daddy! Your tight grip hurt my hand!”

“Well…my tight grip also saved you from skinning your knee on the road, slamming your face on the pavement and getting smashed by that semi-truck!”

On one such occasion, I took my 3 oldest children, who were 6, 5 and 3 at the time, shopping in the nearby town of Brainerd.  We had one primary stop to make…Menards.  Since our 4th child had recently been born, we knew that the need to finish the basement and add another usable bedroom was just on the horizon and thus it was time to pick up some of the supplies.  I along with 3 of my children, pulled into the nearest parking space we could find, and I gave my offspring the instructions.

“Ok…Here’s the deal.  We are going to stay together as we cross the busy parking lot…Isaac and Carissa will each hold one of my hands and Hannah, since you are the oldest and I only have two hands, I will need you to hold onto my pocket as we walk to the store.  Now…all three of you…be sure that you hold on and don’t let go.”

“Ok Daddy!”

“Ok Daddy!”

“What pocket should I hold Daddy? You have so many pockets on your shorts…I don’t know which pocket I should hold.”

I should have known that my over thinking oldest daughter would find a way to complicate things.

“Any pocket will be fine.”

“I think I will hold your back pocket.  Is that ok Daddy?”

“That will be just fine Hannah.”

We all crawled out of the mini-van and took our positions.  My left hand grasped Isaac’s right hand and my right held Carissa’s left, while Hannah secured herself to my back pocket.  We began to shuffle to the store front.  As we approached the curb, I swung both of the younger children up to the sidewalk ahead of me and just as I stepped up myself, it happened.  I felt a sudden tug on my shorts and heard a “rip.” Hannah had tripped on the edge of the curb and fallen to her knees and elbows, she was, however, still holding onto the fabric of my pocket.  It was at this time, that I began to feel the extended draft from the early morning, late spring air. 

“Oh, Sorry Daddy! I tripped.  I had my eyes closed because I was so scared and didn’t want to look at the moving cars and then I tripped on the curb.  It’s ok though…my knees and elbows are bleeding, but I didn’t let go of your pocket daddy!”

I reached back and realized that the entire backside of my cargo shorts had torn away. 

“Ok, kids…change of plans…we are going to Target.”

“Do you still want me to hold your pocket Daddy?”

“No…I want you to hold me at the waist from behind and stay VERY close.”

Imagine now, the repeat of instructions and walking into Target, only to have Isaac see a penny on the sidewalk…suddenly let go of my hand and run after the penny and smash his face into a nearby stone what…band-aids or new shorts first?

It struck me at this time why I have seen some parents walk around with their children on what appear to be dog leashes.  What previously had seemed odd and unnecessary…now made perfect sense. 

Yet, I don’t see Jesus acting in the same manner when he calls his followers to “follow” him.  Jesus doesn’t throw a tether onto a proverbial collar of his disciples and drag them along like a disobedient puppy.  Rather, he beckons, “Follow me.” Here we find a key to the response of following Jesus.  In Matthew 4:18-22, we find that upon Jesus’ request to “Follow Me,” the brothers fishing in the Sea of Galilee leave their nets and their boats and follow Jesus.  They, in fact, remove the proverbial “tether” that holds them to their past and they freely follow Jesus.

May we come to release the tethers that hold us back and respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Ole on the Outskirts

It was just this past week, when I said to my wife and youngest daughter, “I wish that I could go back to Elementary School.”

“Egad! Why would you say that?” my wife asked.

“Really?” my daughter questioned.

“Yeah! Life was so much simpler then.  I mean, I didn’t have to consider what I was supposed to do next, or where I was supposed to be.  I had teachers to tell me what I was supposed to be doing and where I was to be going.  Not to mention, Reagan was president so politically the whole world was happy…except perhaps Gorbachev…and anyone else who didn’t care for the jelly bean loving former actor…I was only 4-12 years old at the time so politics didn’t tend to worry me anyway.  My biggest worry was wondering what my mother packed in my lunch.”

“Really!? That was your biggest worry?”

“Yeah, I think so.  I mean, I miss recess.  I used to go out and play tag, and we would run races, and we would play king of the hill on the giant snow banks.  Sometimes we would play hide and seek…and there were even a couple of games that I was so known for that they actually named the games after me.”

“Seriously Dad!?...what were they?”

“There were two of them. The first one was called ‘Run away from Ryan’ and the other was called, ‘Ole on the Outskirts.’ Run away from Ryan was always a hoot.  Kids would usually grab something of mine, like my lunch box or my hat or something…and then they would run away from me and I would have to chase after them and try and get it back.  Just as I was about to catch them they would usually throw it to someone else and it would start all over again.  The game usually ended when either the school bell would ring and one of the kids would throw my hat on the roof, or I would pass out from exhaustion and wake up to Mrs. Tucker asking why I had not returned to class.  The other game, Ole on the Outskirts, would occur unexpectedly as group of 4 or more boys would suddenly encircle me and push me from one side of the circle to the other.  The goal was to escape from the surrounding circle of boys.  It took great skill to overcome their hulking mass.  I found that I could often win this game by playing the part of an opossum…or grab my nose and say I’m bleeding…of which sometimes it was true.  Oh, it was such fun…good times…good times.”

“Umm…Dad?...those games are usually played by bullies who pick on marginalized kids.”

“Huh!?...Whatever...I wonder what those games are called now?”

It’s no secret that the world is filled with marginalized people, and whether you like it or not, a vast array of classifications.  Sadly, this has been the case for thousands of years.  In fact, we see the classes and the marginalized throughout the Scriptures.  I am incredibly astounded by not only Jesus’ teachings but also his actions when it comes to speaking the truth and loving people.  We often separate these two, but I am convinced that they always belong together.  Paul reveals this in Ephesians 4:15. 

Matthew 4:12-17, begins to reveal in a subtle way the heart that Jesus has for the marginalized.  Jesus goes from Nazareth to Capernaum in Galilee.  The place that would make the “most” sense for the Messiah to go and minister would be Jerusalem…in the heart of Judea…to engage with the religious leaders at the Temple.  Yet, that is not what Jesus does.  He goes to a region that is viewed as lesser class…a Gentile region…a depraved region filled with dock workers and fisherman.  Jesus goes to what is considered an area of sub-level humans.

Why does Jesus do this? Because God loves us and Jesus is for ALL the WORLD!

May we come to see that Jesus makes the Gospel available for ALL the WORLD…including the marginalized.  Whether you are being shoved around in a circle or chasing after your lunchbox…whether you have had a life of ease or a life filled with suffering…Jesus is inviting you to put your trust in Him and Him alone.

Are you marginalized?  You need Jesus and Jesus wants you.  Is someone marginalized in your life? They need Jesus and Jesus wants them. 

All of Jesus for All the World!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Gummy Bears

Once upon a summer one of our neighbors asked if we…our kids…would like some gummy bears.  My wife and I agreed to “allow” our children to have some gummy bears, knowing in truth it was our own watering mouths that we were looking to satisfy.  Little did we know at the time, that we were about to receive somewhere in the vicinity of 10-20 lbs. of gummy candies.  We received a large bag of gummy bears, sour gummy bears, gummy worms, and those round life saver looking peach gummy candies…(we had a friend come by who ate most of those). 

As most sane people realize, gummy bears, and the like, are nearly impossible to stop consuming, once the initial bear has been eaten.  We as a family did manage to use these bears as “leverage” of influence for our children.  “Ok kids…you can have gummy bears, once you have finished cleaning up supper.” 

At this point my children would eagerly rush to clean up supper and tidy the house while my wife and I would sit and eat gummy bears as we watched the kids work.  It’s not what you think…we wouldn’t just eat them in front of them, that would be mean…we would sneak them into our pockets and when they would leave the room to take out the recycling or had their head in the dishwasher we would quick eat them…ok maybe it is what you were thinking. 

In any case, the gummy bears were used effectively for much motivation.  In fact, there was one specific day when three of our four children had friends over for a sleep over, and when it came time for the friends to be taken home, it was only natural that our children wanted to ride along with their friends.  The challenge came when each of our children desperately wanted to sit next to his or her own friend.  Our minivan (I know a minivan…it sounds like I’m bragging right…just as much as if I had said Datsun), can hold 6 passengers in the back, two rows of three.  So inevitably, there was going to be one of my children NOT sitting by one of their friends.  As we were loading the van I braced myself for the ensuing conflict of which my children did not disappoint.  “I want to sit by my friend!”, “Not fair!”, “I was there first.”  I pulled out the trump card… “Whoever is willing to allow the other persons to sit by their friend and not sit by your own friend will get gummy bears.”  I was immediately ashamed of what I encountered.  I watched my three children turn their backs on their all important friendships, leaving their friends high and dry as they raced for a seat away from their friend…all for the sake of gummy bears.  Gummy bears are good…but are they really that good?

The temptation of sin is like the lure of sugar.  It tastes sweet but it leaves us hungry.  Often we think that if we can just have more, we will find satisfaction, and yet…still hungry.  I can tell you first hand; that 100 gummy bears will not satisfy your hunger…it’ll give you a gut ache and leave you regretting you had ever eaten that first one let alone 100.  On the contrary, what is more satisfying than sitting down to a nice meal of meat and potatoes…unless you are vegetarian, then just potatoes.  The Psalmist David gives us perspective in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” 

This leads me to consider when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the Devil, (Matt. 4:1-11).  It is an absolutely astounding event.  Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and he is hungry, tired, weak and alone and in this difficult time when Satan attacks.  The enemy attacks Jesus with powerful temptations, which are not unlike the lure of sugar.  We all long to have things “our way, right away,” and I am convinced that is where Satan hits us first.  He attacks in the longing for immediate gratification of our desires.  Jesus is willing to set aside the temporary gratification for the eternal satisfaction.

When we are faced with the relentless temptations that our lives throw before us, may we be reminded of where the true goodness and true satisfaction come from, and may we take refuge in Him and be satisfied completely in Him.

Saturday, January 20, 2024


It took me a long time to win the heart of the wife of my youth.  This is to no fault of hers…rather it is mine.  I remember the first time I laid eyes on her.  She had eyes of the May sky and hair like autumn wheat. When she smiled, the darkness in the room would flee and everything could be seen for what it was…including my gaping mouth and possible drool puddling in my lap. 

My first sight was while riding on a bus in college to Valleyfair in Minnesota.  She was sitting across the aisle from me and one row ahead.  My friend Geoff and I were heading up the welcoming committee for all of the new students coming into Crown College that year, and she was one of them. 

From that point on, my life existed for the sole purpose of impressing her, so I did the only thing I could do to impresser her at the time.  I began to wrestle with my friend Geoff.  It was only reasonable that as a competitive high school wrestler, that this act of machismo would be the most impressive act I could perform to reveal my value and woo this young, freshman girl.  So…Geoff and I wrestled…attacking each other, both over and under the seats.  We jumped across the aisle and back.  We were loud…obnoxious…and sweaty.  In the midst of our wrestling, I kept glancing her way out of the corner of my eye to judge her reaction and upon seeing her smiling and laughing I knew that it must be working. 

Unfortunately, five months later when I finally worked up enough courage to ask her out…she turned me down…hard. Apparently, she was not a wrestling fan. 

Fast forward, 19 months and numerous rejections later, we were walking through a local park hand in hand one evening.  At this time I asked her, “What are you thinking.”  I still remember her glorious response…

She said… “I like this.”

BEHOLD! She likes me!!!

Tim Keller writes the following in his book, Jesus is King: “Think of this, if you find somebody you adore, someone for whom you would do anything and you discover that this person feels the same about you, does that feel good? It’s sublime! That is what God has been enjoying for all eternity…the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

This is the beautiful picture of relationship that we see revealed in Matthew 3:13-17. I am convinced that, not only is God revealing to us His perfect relationship with Himself…but also…is inviting us into that restored relationship with him. 

It is no wonder then...why God sent his Son…because He so loved the world.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

 Snow Way

My wife took my son to the Northern Peninsula Michigan this weekend for a college visit.  Despite the long and mild fall that we have enjoyed in the midst of the upper mid-west, my wife found herself racing to reach her destination before the first real snow storm of the winter bore down on Marquette Michigan.  She arrived just ahead of the gale force winds that promised to bring up to 24 inches of snow to the region.  We have yet to tell if the girls and I will even see them again until spring or if they will be perpetually stuck in the permafrost of shores of Lake Superior. 

Having grown up in the northern half of Minnesota, I too have spent my share of time driving on snowm covered back country roads as well as attempting to race ahead of a coming tempests of winter.  I have been fortunate to be able to keep my vehicles between the deep snow filled ditches…for the most part. 

Upon looking at some of my past decisions to drive, despite travel warnings, I can only imagine God almighty shaking his head at my undeveloped teenage brain and telling his guardian angels to get down there and do their best to keep that rusty rear wheeled drive Plymouth from veering off the icy road.  It is possible that I may have single handedly kept those angels employed in the unending task of keeping me alive and safe. 

I recall one such evening, as I foolishly decided to go Christmas shopping alone to Fargo North Dakota while schooling in Fergus Falls, MN.  I departed after dark, when the snow had already begun to fall.  It wasn’t long before I was spinning my wheels and sliding my back end…both the car and my own…as I struggled down I94 heading westward.  Thanks in part to the posi-traction drive train of the Grand Fury and the sweating angels around me, I arrived safely in North Dakota’s largest city, where I spent a couple of hours purchasing gifts for my mother, father and girlfriend.  I got nothing for my brothers or sister. 

I then began twirling my balding tires back toward my college apartment.  Once back onto I94, I was greeted with a sheer blanket of white.  It was nearly impossible to see out the windshield in the turbulent blowing snow of the blizzard, which covered the surface of the road entirely.  I was unable to determine where the right or the left side of the highway began and ended, let alone how to stay in my own lane.  I listened to the voice coming over the radio speaking of the travel warnings and the fact that “Interstate 94” is being shut down due to hazardous conditions.  Oh…this…was…not…good.

Yellow lights began to flash in my rear view mirror.  The enormous Minnesota plow caught me quickly as I was only making a peak of about 15 miles per hour.  The massive truck blew past me in a cloud of white.  I braked to a near stop for fear of driving into the ditch in the complete white out condition.  Yet…as soon as he passed, there lay before me a path of glorious pavement.  I sped up just enough to tuck myself in behind the plow which had suddenly revealed the way.

I think that in a way…this is what John the Baptist was doing as he preached at the threshold of Jesus’ public ministry, (Matthew 3:1-12).  The Israelites are stuck in a proverbially snow covered road and they can’t see a way.  John himself was NOT the way…yet, he revealed - The Way.  He prepared the people to be able to see that the Way had come and things were about to change.  The entire world was about to be turned upside down.

May the Lord reveal Jesus as the way in our everyday lives as we follow his straight and narrow path toward His Upside Down Kingdom.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

 Been There Done That


Several years ago, my son and one of my daughters took to the deer woods during the Minnesota firearms hunting season.  The three of us spread out, each taking a different stand in a different area of the woods.  I wasn’t in my stand for 30 minutes before I heard my daughter discharge her Stevens 30-30 model 325 bolt-action rifle.  The rifle was my first deer rifle, which had been given to me when I was 12 years old by my father.  It is an old, plain Jane rifle with birch wood stock and a mostly un-blued finish, which has been used to kill and not kill many a white tail.

I was thrilled at hearing the shot and anticipating the recovery of the next white tail to be taken by the WWII vintage firearm.  As I approached my daughter, still in her stand, she gave me an excited “thumbs up” to confirm that she had fired and harvested her next table-worthy game animal. 

Before I began to track the wounded stag, I discussed the progression with my young hunter.  She took the time and expressed the event with her still shaking voice and hands.

“It was a spike buck…he came from the north-east…and…he walked straight at me…I brought the gun up…and he turned and stopped…18 yards away…and I shot…then he ran…only about 20 yards…straight that way…he looked around and then ran away…”

I spent the next 20 minutes looking for blood, hair and tracks.  Finally, after practically licking the ground looking for any signs of impact or a wounded animal I had to ask…”Are you sure you hit it?”

“Yes! I must have…it was only 18 yards away!”

“I know…but I am not finding anything.”

I spent 20 more minutes looking.  I came back the next day and looked some more.  Sadly, we never found a single sign of impact let alone the deer.

My poor daughter was discouraged and distraught. 

“I don’t know what happened? I don’t know how I could have missed?”

“I understand.”

The truth of it is…I understood more than she could know.  In fact, most hunters can probably relate.  All hunters have stories of how we have missed and made mistakes in either shooting or tracking deer.  I gave my daughter a hug and said… “I have been there…done that.”

I began telling her stories of deer that I had missed…with the same rifle in fact.  Countless stories of how I had messed up.  I couldn’t change her outcome…but I wanted her to know…that I can relate.

As I have been studying the Gospel of Matthew, I continue to see more and more how Jesus also can relate to us.  He suffered in every way and was tempted in every way.  He can relate.  He was a refugee (Matthew 2:13-23)…he was impoverished…he suffered pain…he suffered grief.  I believe that whatever we endure in this world…Jesus understands.

May you come to see that Jesus know you and he knows what you are going through.

You know…now that I think about it…maybe the rifle is the reason that we both missed the deer???  I can live with that…and I guess…so can the deer.