Tuesday, April 2, 2024


I have a young friend.  
Actually, I am blessed to have several young friends and family who help me
to remember what youth looks like.
Sounds like.
Feels like. 
Otherwise, I'll start talking about how far it was to walk to school,
and begin sentences with the phrase, "Back in my day..."
A few weeks ago I was in a meeting at our church.
Mostly it was all twenty-somethings.
AND lest you should be dismayed, they were talking about the challenges
of our faith in Jesus, and how it's not always...simple.
AND that sometimes the lessons that come through difficulty, hurt or pain
can be very worthwhile.
There was almost an audible and shared exhale in that truth.
People dropped their eyes to the floor and nodded their heads thoughtfully.
Then my young friend said,
"Sometimes, it's okay...letting it suck for a minute."
His eyes were watery and his voice was a bit shaky when he said those words.
I know his story, and I know that he met Christ for the first time in exactly one of those moments.
I know that Christ continues to meet him...whenever things, "suck."
I want to tie an apron string between this idea and another...
"Blessing" is a word of our faith.
I think it is largely misunderstood.  Too often it has come to mean an unexpected windfall of good things.
Money.  A new job.  A new relationship.  A new house or new car.  Anything that makes me smile or brings happiness into my life.
That isn't terrible, but I believe it's too thin.
I propose a new definition.
What if....Blessings became anything that pushes/pulls us into a deeper trust, 
a more knowing relationship with Jesus.
If that can be true, then letting life suck for a minute might be helpful.
It might push/pull me past what I feel in that instant, deepening my hope in my Savior.
AND what a blessing that would be.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Beneath 167

Sunrise.  Sunset.
The two words open the chorus of a song that's included in one of my favorite stories ever portrayed on stage or screen...Fiddler On The Roof.
The lyrics speak to the passing of time during the transitional moments of our lives.
AND that there are so many more that happen when we are mostly unaware.
I have to admit, I'm a sucker for all of the songs that speak to this.
"Time In A Bottle."
"Butterfly Kisses."
"Cats In The Cradle."
(Insert your favorite song in this space here)
I think that the reason these lyrics or thoughts are so meaningful to me is that not only do they speak to the different chapters of our lives, they remind us that our time of watching anyone or anything grow up is fleeting.
Perhaps it's my vocation.  Perhaps it's my age.  Perhaps it's a little of both.  :)
Recently, I was driving under 167 on Kent/Des Moines Road and another thought, held in tension
with those above came to mind...
I have stood next to, or sat near, held the hand of many who have passed into the next experience of life after that here on earth.
Those on the precipice.
A few have been fearful.  Some have been filled with grief or regret.
But others have marched steadily, honestly and with certainty into that good, good new sunrise.

One, who had battled ALS through their last months said, "For some reason, Jesus has allowed this into my life, so I have determined to make friends with it.  I want to discover what truth it has for me before I go.  It does not frighten me."  A few weeks later this great, big man met his Jesus face to face.

I asked another one day if he was ready for his next life step.  He was in his 70's emaciated by cancer, but sitting up on his living room chair, he said, "Sometimes, Jesus is right there."  He held his arm outward with strength, pointing to a place a few feet in front of him."  And I looked to that space, almost expecting to see who he was pointing to, because of the certainty of his words.

A third, said quietly, "He told me He's going to make more more like myself than I've ever been."

Sunsets always give way to another sunrise.  
Let us not live in fear or regret.
That which we let go of will only be replaced with something much better. 
He promised....If it were not true he would have told us so.  
His words, not mine.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

He's Still There

I found a book a while back.
It's a kid's book modeled after the "Where's Waldo?" series.
Except, instead of looking for a tall, thin fellow in a striped shirt and stocking cap amidst 
a great, swarming mob, you're supposed to locate the artist's depiction of...get ready...Jesus.
It feels like a worthy process to just consider 
how Jesus might be part of our lives; where he might show up,
and how he might be seen, or maybe be there but unseen.
I believe we are mostly unaware that he is with us...most of our days.
Yet he promised us that once we invite him into our lives, it would be impossible to shake him, 
even if we tried.
Still...I think that the issue is less about geography and more about our peace of mind and spirit.
Looking for him in a drawing or picture is one thing, finding him in the middle of my messy life experience is another.
Yet, I think that's exactly where we need to experience him and where he wants most for us to seek after him.
In the middle of community injustices and disease.
In the middle of wars, and rumors of war.
Standing for the hurting, the lost, the disenfranchised.
In the midst of my personal confusion or...
In my immensity of grief. 
CS Lewis said, 

           "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, 
               but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

That really makes me go, "Hmmmmmmm."
I have a young friend who wrote these words in song titled, "Broken Down," many years back, in reflection upon a cancer diagnosis that took his life at 23 years of age.

   "I think I know you're there, but I could really use a sign.
    And I think I'm doin' okay, but I could use some sleep tonight.
    I think that I'm working this out, but I could use some peace of mind.
    I don't think I've ever been this alone, I don't think I've ever been this alive."

These thoughts all reflect to me the presence of Jesus in moments of life that he may be difficult to be found and yet is absolutely available if I can sidestep those things that would distract me from his spirit.
Can I have one foot planted in the discomfort of my hurt and understand that while he doesn't 
remove me from that space and all its complications he will sustain me there?
I think so.
And I'm grateful for his hand in mine.
It means everything.
But in the moment....I can still hurt.
(Link to the song mentioned, "Broken Down" by Spencer Green)

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Tell Me A Story

A short memory; almost a dream came to me a few days ago.
It was in that sweet moment before the day begins and sleep was still trying to hang onto my body...

I was maybe four years old.
Sitting on my Grandpa's lap as he read me a book.  
It wasn't the first time, but it would be the last.
It was perhaps Dr. Seuss, but I'm not sure.
I remember the bright colors of the characters on the pages.
Short sentences.  Maybe six or eight words was all.
I remember the light from outside, spilling down on us through small, rectangular windows 
in a daylight basement.  The short staircase across from us, leading up to the mud-room on one side and the kitchen on the other.
Grandpa's shop was out the front door, a short distance away.  
There, the night before, under a tin-roof overhang we made ice-cream with a wooden bucket, a crank, rock-salt and a lot of tired arms putting in their time.
It was vanilla.
And it was good, but it took a long time for something you could get in a square box at the store, take home and eat right away. At least that's how it seemed to me, as a child.

I had learned to read myself, just a little bit, but Grandma or Grandpa reading to me
was always better, they sometimes did voices for the characters in the story.
That's the best.
As Grandpa was reading I began to notice that the story he was telling me wasn't the same as
what was printed.
On maybe the third page, I laughed and said, "Grandpa...that's not what it says."
He said, "Sure it is."
I said, "No it's not," still giggling.
He said, "How do you know?"
I said, "Because I can read some, and those aren't the words."
And he forced a smile and slowly closed the book.
"Nope," he said, "It's not the story you're reading, but it's the one I see."
He paused, looked down at the floor, and then said,
"You probably don't need Grandpa to read to you anymore, because you already know what it says."
He gently set me down off the bed, grabbed his work gloves, turned his back to me, climbed the stairs and was out the front door and headed to the barn before I even moved.

Today, I don't think that little boy was in the wrong.
Nor do I resent my Grandfather's response in any way.
He never mentioned that moment again, and we enjoyed a really wonderful relationship our whole time here on this earth.
I think the reason this memory has come back to me is less about blame or guilt and more about something else. 
Way back then...nearly 60 years ago, I didn't know what happened in that moment, but I knew that
something was changing, and at the least, it was awkward.
A long time later, I discovered that my Grandpa, 
in spite of all the amazing things he knew how to do...
He knew about cows: how to round them up, how to milk them, brand them, tag them, feed them, heal them, and bring them into the world.
He also knew the same about horses, pigs, ducks and chickens.
He knew about engines, all kinds: cars, tractors, trucks, mowers and could figure out why they didn't run right...and he would fix them for anyone who didn't understand what he knew.
He could fix clocks: the kind on the wall, the kind that would cuckoo, the kind that would strike a bell, sit on the mantle, stand in a corner, taller than I, or the ones that went on your wrist or in your pocket.
He could build a house, a barn, a fence or a corral.
In spite of all this that he did know...he never learned to read.  
He could write his name and not much else.
When he was quite young he went to work on his parents farm, and there was no time for "schoolin'" in his life from that day forward.  
So, the day he closed that book, it was an end to a thing we had shared and it never came back.
Even at four years old there was a sadness I felt and somehow I also knew Grandpa was embarrassed
but I didn't know why. 
I think that is part of the lesson in this memory today.  
How able am I to let go of what has been and find joy in what comes next?
He loved telling stories.
Fortunately, he kept telling them, they just didn't come out of books, they came out of his life.
AND this might be the other thing that I'm learning.
My favorite stories are the ones I hear about people themselves.
The story that they have seen and lived.
The truth of their moments.
The source of their hopes, passions and even their disappointments or rejection.
Oftentimes their story is very different than the one I thought I knew about them.
Sometimes they're revealed haltingly, with intense struggle or the converse, 
they are told without any feeling at all.
I have even heard some told with laughter in what felt to be wrong places.
Places where there was pain, and nothing that was funny at all; but there it was in their voice.
A concealer, a disguise, a mask.
Dr. Seuss was a good storyteller, but honestly, my Grandpa was better.
At least I'll always think so.
And I'm incredibly thankful for the stories that were his,
                                The ones that came out after he put the book down.

Friday, December 15, 2023

An Early Gift

Trying to hear the voice that came to a prophet in the cave
after a season in the valley.
Psalm of David.
Spoken to Mary.
Spoken to Elizabeth,
                  and so many others.
Speak to me...
In this season of gifts and celebration.
Come softly, like an echo above falling snow.
And I will listen.  
I promise.

Someone said in a movie I watched once,
"You don't even know when you're gettin' lucky."
And I thought...what a condemnation.
But I think I'm the one in that space.
Too often.
A gift came to me this year.
It's in a simple understanding.
We sing, "Joy To The World!"
In hope.
But the understanding brought me
The words stand side-by-side.

What have I missed.
Who have I missed.
In the hurry.
In the midst of searching for significance.
It's an early gift, so that I will be more diligent about 
His coming.  
Then...but also now.
I...and also WE...are so blessed,
                                              By GRACE.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Making The Most of Moments

Several weeks ago we had the chance
to take 3 days away.
It was lovely.
I believe that it was actually... necessary.  
If you doubt me, ask my wife.
We were able to breathe deep, and take in our moments together.
We reminisced about when we were younger versions of ourselves on respite at a location we haven't been to for at least 25 years.
There were sunsets to look at and walks along the sea.
There was peace of mind.
There was joy.
There was exhale; and restoration.
In that reflection I came to something I felt significant to share...
As I grow older I feel a greater desire to find access to the kindness that 
is not native to my heart, but it flows over and through everything that is part 
of who God is.  It's the threshold of our entry into his presence. (See Romans 2)
All we have is moments.  
With him.
With others.
Less moments remaining tomorrow than we have today.
Yet, it's not about hurry.  
A man came into our offices a week ago and gave us an estimate for an alarm system update.
I asked how his week was going.
He said, "Honestly, I'm a bit overwhelmed."
Then he went on to tell me that about ten days earlier his wife, who was struggling with mental illness had wandered off, and then eight days after that, the police had found her body.  
"I'm so sorry", I said.
The man continued to elaborate about his family history and the processes they were 
sorting through up to this day.
At the moment he began speaking, I realized that for me, this was all there was that was happening in the world.
This instant.
This connection.  Nothing else mattered.
We talked in hushed tones for a bit longer and then I asked him if I could pray.
He said yes, so we did.
I asked him to let me know if there was anything at all that we could do
to further help him.  And he said something that I've heard many say, 
"It's actually been good to get back to some work and think some about other things."
We took deep breaths.
I put my arm across his shoulders.
And then he shifted back to explaining the new alarm system.
I don't always catch the significance of a meeting.
I'm sure I miss more than I want to acknowledge.
But this was obvious, and I didn't miss it.

Paul put it this way...

(Amplified)  Ephesians 5:2  "Walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

A young friend of mine once penned the frustrations of living life at the intersection of the eternal and the temporary in a song titled, "Another Sliver of Eternity."  
It's a calling out.  
A yearning that we would hold our moments as precious.
That we would see beyond the immediate and yet be completely present with each other.
We are woven into it all.  The lighter
threads and darker ones as well.  
For purposes greater than we can see right now.
It is not meant to be heavy, but light; easy but worthwhile.
Our moments are valuable.
Particularly when committed to the one who made us,
And then also shared in appeal to those around us, made in his image,
Yet not aware.

"Another Sliver of Eternity" YouTube link: (Enjoy!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySkGgFQhZxg

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Maybe We're Kind of Common...And Maybe That's a Good Thing

My wife and I have done our best to create space in the world for two tiny, baby girls to grow into whole, healthy and happy young women.  
Some days I am burdened with the assurance that we have failed in at least some of our efforts. That is not an enjoyable understanding, but still true.
One of the areas of difficulty has been in trying to help them see how wonderfully unique they are while at the same time preparing them for the fact that everyone else in the world won't celebrate that the way that we do.
Being "fearfully and wonderfully" made is an incredible concept for our mind and heart to hold onto.  (see Psalm 139:1-18)

Prepare yourself.
I'm gonna flip the script a bit.  
As uniquely as we were created, I believe that our struggles, though they have specific edges to them, are rather common.  
In other words we are mostly united in our failures.
Once more...That is not an enjoyable understanding, but still true...if this is also true:

"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it." (I Cor. 10:13)

I think that this matters to each of us because:
...We tend to think our stumbles, struggles, mis-steps...whatever we wish to call these moments of our lives...are so difficult to be understood or untangled, that we remain mired in them for years, 
          even decades, 
                            even a lifetime.
We must remember that there is one who works against us.
Who works against our hope.
Who works against our relationships.
Who works against our peace.
Who works against the truth that can set us free.
He wants for the shadow of all of our shortcomings to keep us forever darkened in spirit.

Please hear the other voice.  
The voice that says, 
"Yes! you were made completely, singular...
None other exists who is just like you.  
However, nothing you will ever experience, 
no lack of judgement or act you will ever commit
is so complicated that I cannot lift the weight of it from you 
                                                         or you from it. 
It's as though you were the hundredth person I've helped find this full release in the past  hour. 
All you have to do is trust me with the set of fetters that bind you
And when I break them apart, 
                          learn to walk, speak and LIVE IN YOUR FREEDOM."