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.