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!