Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Locked Door

I officiated the funeral of Pamela Kollman today. I have many years of memories of Pam and her involvement at the Alliance Church in Little Falls.  Pam volunteered many years with our MOPS program and was a gifted artist and craftsperson.  Pam liked to talk, and thus, she would make her weekly rounds of phone calls calling her friends and family and the church to chit chat and share the latest developments of her previous and current prayer needs. 

Pam operated under a rather consistent, high stress level, though she never struck me as frazzled.  In fact, she may have been the calmest stressed person I had ever met. 

Ring. Ring.

 “Good morning, Alliance Church, this is Ryan.”

“Oh Pastor Ryan…I just don’t know what to do…” she would state in a definitive manner absent of emotion.

“Hi Pam! How are you?”

“Not good.”

“What’s going on Pam?”

“Oh…I need to get to St. Cloud for a doctor’s appointment…and Dennis is working…and I have no one to take me…I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Well Pam…here is what we are going to do.  I am going to give you a phone number and you are going to call this number.  It is the number of a lady from the church who has offered to give anyone rides who needs a ride.  You will ask her if she can take you…ok Pam?”


(5 minutes later) Ring. Ring.

“Good morning, Alliance Church, this is Ryan.”

“Oh, Pastor Ryan, you were right. She can take me.”

“Wonderful! Have a nice day Pam!”

I have a favorite story of my experience with Pam.  It is a story I have shared on a number of occasions including her memorial service earlier today.  It is a story that reflects the work of Jesus in our lives.”

Ring. Ring.

“Good afternoon, Alliance Church, this is Ryan.”

“Oh Pastor Ryan…I just don’t know what to do.”

“Oh, hello Pam. How are you today?”

“Not good.”

“What’s going on Pam?”

“Oh, it’s my dog, he is in the bedroom.”

“Your dog is in the bedroom?”

“Yes, He is in the bedroom…and he can’t get out. The door is locked.”

“Do you have the key for the bedroom?”

“There isn’t a key for that door, it just has a lock on the inside.”

“Is there a hole or a slot that you can trip the lock from the outside?”

“No, it is an old door.  He is locked in and he can’t get out.  Dennis is at work and the dog is going to go crazy in there if he doesn’t get out.”

“Ok Pam, here is what we are going to do.  I need to go pick up my son from school.  I am going to go pick him up, and then I am going to get some tools from my home and then both my son and I will come and we will get that door open. Ok Pam?”

“Ok. Thank you, Pastor Ryan.”

“You are welcome Pam.  See you soon.”

I did as I said.  I walked to the front door with my tool bag in hand and my son walking behind me. We entered the house to hear a dog barking from somewhere inside. 

“Oh Pastor Ryan, he is going crazy in there.”

“Which room is he in Pam?”

“This one here.”

The muffled barking and whining continued on the opposite side of the old solid, paneled door.  I looked at the door knob and sure enough there was no hole or a slot to attempt to trip the lock.  The door swung in, and so I could not access the hinges as they were not visible from this side of the door. I reached my hand to the door knob…I turned the knob…and swung the door inward.  The dog ran out as soon as the door opened.

“How did you do that?” Pam asked with some of the greatest expression I had ever noted in her voice.

“It wasn’t locked Pam.  It was a little tight…but it wasn’t locked.”

It struck me that many of us (perhaps myself more than anyone) have lived a good portion of our lives believing that somehow the key to finding Jesus is locked away behind a solid, paneled door.  We look for some hidden key to understanding God. We search for ways to work at opening the secret door.  Perhaps, if I could just do this or that, I could somehow find a way into the acceptance of God…and maybe earn my way to heaven, but this is not the way it is.  It has taken me many years to realize that the door that I thought was locked...wasn’t.  The way to God has been made.  When Jesus went to the cross to die for my sins he made a way.  The curtain in the Temple was torn, and thus a way to God was made. Through Jesus we can have peace with God. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker (Matt. 5:9). Jesus unlocked the door.  May we open the door.

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.