Friday, December 30, 2011

Jesus Just ... blew up

I never really have cared much for nativity scenes. That's no secret. Everybody who knows me knows that. I find them rather ... cheesy. At best you find a display of concrete or hard plastic figures standing in a make believe stable. Most often you'll find a donkey or two. Maybe some wise men. And in the center there is always baby Jesus lying in a feeding trough. Remember, that's the expensive set-ups. The really bad ones are plastic, gaudy colored, and lit from within.

When I think of what it must have been like to be in that real stable the night Jesus was born ... well ... the aforementioned display doesn't come close. It was dark, and it smelled badly, and it was full of blood and after-birth, and manure. Seems to me that isn't much of a place to give birth to any child. Much less God's Son.

God reminded me once that the piece of history that the nativity scene portrays, cheesy or not, represents something that really happened at a specific time in history. It's real. I am very grateful for that. And so I have a rather uneasy peace about the whole thing. It happened. We could do a better job of displaying it. But then, nobody would want it in their front yard.

I have a friend named Bill. He owns a very nice home in suburban St. Louis. Every year Bill drags his semi-cheesy nativity set out of its summer hiding place. He gets it all situated on the front lawn for the neighborhood to see. Bill loves Jesus like I do. And every year while he is setting up his nativity scene he calls me and let's me know that "today is the day! I'm putting Jesus out in the front yard and that made me think of you!" And we share a laugh. Good times.

Bill called me today. He doesn't have to take the nativity scene down this year. It seems that last night, while he and his wife were out of town ... Jesus burned the whole thing down. To the ground. They were just driving along when a neighbor called them and said the police and the fire department were at his house because Jesus was on fire. You don't see that happen every day. Bill said that least one of the wise men melted all the way down to the grass. He not-so-casually asked where I was last night around 8:30PM. I have an alibi. Iron clad. I was eating sweet potato waffle fries at Lions Choice. My wife watched me do it. Innocent.

The truth is, I think Jesus did it Himself. Take a look at the picture taken by a passerby. The real Jesus is dong just fine, thank you. But the plastic Jesus totally flamed out. No need to blow out the candles on Jesus cake this year.

But would somebody mind blowing out Jesus?

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Dark Side Of Christmas

Seldom do I "borrow" a blog from another writer. But tonight my friend, Kellye, posted the following writing by Frederick Buechner. It is more than worth the time it takes to read it. Prepare to enter the wonder of what was done for us by the one we worship ... The Christ ... The one who left heavens celebrations to enter the fallen planet on a rescue mission. He made Himself vulnerable to us. I will never cease to be amazed.

""Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again.  Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of humankind.  If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant's child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too.  And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart, because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.

For those who believe in God, it means, this birth, that God himself is never safe from us, and maybe that is the dark side of Christmas, the terror of the silence.  He comes in such a way that we can always turn him down, as we could crack the baby's skull like an eggshell or nail him up when he gets too big for that.  God  comes to us in the hungry people we do not have to feed, comes to us in the lonely people we do not have to comfort, comes to us in all the desperate human need of people everywhere that we are always free to turn our backs upon.  It means that God puts himself at our mercy not only in the sense of the suffering that we can cause him by our blindness and coldness and cruelty, but the suffering we can cause him simply by suffering ourselves." 

--from The Face in the Sky, Frederick Buechner

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jesus With Skin On

Sometimes words flow like the sweetest honey down the face of a perfectly shaped biscuit. Those moments are fun. Sometimes words clog like too much of something unpleasant lodged in a flushing toilet. Those moments are not fun. And the plunger comes to the rescue but not without splashing water of questionable content. I trust that you have already abandoned any idea that this will be an article of flowery prose. If the word "unpleasant" didn't get you "toilet" surely did.

Words seemed to come difficult this morning. It is Sunday and I am a pastor. That means you know where to find me when 10:15 rolls around. I'm soon to be standing behind the acrylic desk which holds my scattered thoughts and memo's from God. My primary calling in life is to fashion them into some sort of logical message that will transform the profane into the sacred. And the "message" God gave me this morning was odd for the heart of Christmas season. It was born out of John 3: 17-18. It's a scripture about forgiveness and condemnation. It references how God came that we might avoid the one to obtain the other. More than good advice. Greater than wise counsel. Rather, the very Words of God.

It is a bit scary to stand before a crowd and claim to speak for the Holy One. To make a mistake in this quest is to be held accountable in the most serious of fashions. Misrepresent God and He will most certainly come knocking at your door. And so a wise man will not take this task lightly.

And as I said, the words this morning came with difficulty, as though I had to carve each one out of hardwood with only a butter knife. But the message was clear. The baby in the manger grew to be a man. He revealed that He had been sent from Heaven's Throne to redeem lost mankind from a most unsavory fate. No, you don't want to screw up this message. I took great care to keep one ear open toward heaven for immediate instructions mid-message. I'll admit to receiving a few without divulging their content. Suffice it to say that He spoke in my core and I endeavored to relay His Truth to listening ears.

And then it was over. My heart was poured empty. Several had complained that the temperature of the room was far too cool as the 75 minutes of worship and teaching began. By the time we reached minute 75 I was marinating within the brown sweater I had pulled over my head this morning. And i wondered why. Why had no one visibly responded to God's call? Why was the alter void of kneeling humans? Why no tears? I had given all. By the time a Sunday morning teaching time is completed I am often ready for an afternoon on the scrap heap.

And then John approached me. He's one of my favorite guys. A leader in our church, John loves God with a whole heart and exudes the curiosity of a modern day Peter at times. He tracked me down and gave me the best "man hug" I have had in weeks. His voice was exuberant as he said, "If you had spoken those words at a Billy Graham Crusade, the altar would be full of seeking people this morning!" John doesn't know it but he was Jesus to me today. Honestly, I don't need to speak at a Billy Graham Crusade. I don't generally need adoring words of affirmation and praise. But every now and then you really pour out your soul and you wonder ... did anybody hear? Did anybody pay attention? Did it make a difference at all? Did the words I spoke have any more impact than a chirping cricket on a lonely, dark night?

Thank you, John. Today I just needed to know that I had indeed heard God. And I needed to know that He had shared His Truth through me. You were His voice. You were just what I needed ...

...Jesus with skin on.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving has always seemed like such a safe holiday to me. No one fights much over its meaning. It is spelled out right in its name. I suppose it must be difficult to know who to thank if you do not believe in a living God. Maybe you thank your spouse or your parents. It could be that you thank your friends and your employer. Most people know enough to thank someone. Still, I believe that gratefulness is an understated virtue. We are a country of pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps people. Ego trumps thanksgiving most days. It shouldn't. 9% unemployment should remind us that not only isn't life fair, it also isn't predictable. What you have today you may well not have tomorrow. I spent time with two men this week. Each of them faces a death sentence at the hands of cancer. Both of them felt pretty well during our time together. They know that that could change at any minute without notice. And yet they each made it clear to me that they are thankful ... and that they know who to thank.

My wife and I were driving to our son's house this afternoon. We made our way west on I-64 out of the suburbs and into the core of the city. The sun was not far from setting and it was very difficult to see. My sun glasses were doing their best but it was a losing battle against the glare. Debbie was talking to her mother. Suddenly she dropped the phone into her lap and audibly gasped. My eyes had been avoiding the sun. We were about to go under an overpass. I had noticed a silver car parked on top of the bridge. She had noticed the woman who had gotten out of the car, scaled a chain link fence and guard rail. One leg was dangling over the edge. She pointed and stuttered and stammered. By the time I understood what she was telling me the overpass was behind us. I dialed 911 on my cell phone and the operator connected me with the Illinois State Police. I told them what we had seen. They had already received one call but had not gotten all of the information they needed. I told them that I am a pastor and I was looking for a place to turn around and go back but I was stuck in a construction zone. She told me the trooper had almost arrived and that I should keep going. She took my phone number in case it was needed.

I have no idea what had driven this woman to consider something as horrible as suicide. I never will know. I suppose for every person that celebrates the joy of a day like Thanksgiving, there is at least one person that grieves in loneliness and pain. Did she jump? I do not know. But my heart breaks at the realization that she was out there in the first place, even considering it. Maybe she had looked for something to be thankful for today and came up with ... nothing. I just don't know.

Two hours later we were driving from our sons house to our daughters house. The highway had four lanes. Two in each direction separated by a grass median strip. I had just stopped at a red light when it was my turn to go ... "AAAAHHHH!!!!!!!" We were in the left lane and suddenly a car passed by me in the right lane, going the opposite direction. Debbie said she saw a handicapped sign hanging from the person rearview mirror. I was busy honking my horn and pointing in the direction the driver needed to be going. About 50 feet beyond my car the other car stopped. It's turn signal was on and it sat still in the middle of a busy highway facing the wrong direction. My light turned green and I had no choice but to continue on. What happened? Did the person turn around safely and rejoin traffic? Was there an accident? Was this an elderly person who had gotten confused or a drunk who was driving blind? Once again, no idea. I do know that this persons Thanksgiving had not gone according to plan. I do not know what price was paid for the mistake.

I have been mentally processing these two events for the past few hours. All I can come up with is this. Sometimes life goes horribly wrong. The result can be intentional or accidental tragedy. It can ... and does ... happen every day. I am not above screwing up myself. (Just ask those who know me the best.) But I am convinced that there is a God in heaven who has showered me with his love. He has given me eyes to recognize the good in life for what it is ... a gift from my Father. Believing in Him has given me all of the purpose and imputes I need to stay alive, stay sober, and to seek to please Him with my every breath. And I have learned to give thanks. When things go right I give thanks because I am overwhelmed with His goodness. When things to wrong I give thanks because I have learned that I will never be content until I accept everything that comes my way as His perfect plan for my life. As long as I kick against my circumstances I will be restless and discontent.

Today is Thanksgiving day. And I give thanks. I give it to my God, my creator. My thanks is due Him. And honestly, giving Him thanks and gratitude makes my life worth living. I am so glad ... so glad ... that my life matters. So glad that my decisions can all be run by Him for approval before I act on them. So glad that the sunny days bring joy and gladness to my heart. So glad that the rainy days teach me to remember that this fallen world is loved by Him with such intensity that He sent His Son to give His own life to set things right for those who trust Him. Yes, it is Thanksgiving. And I saw a line of people today. They were camped out in tents, waiting until midnight so that they can be the first into the electronics store to be the latest technological wizardry. I have no desire to be in their line. (Though I do love me some electronics.) But I have found the line for me. It calls out for me. I want to be in it every single day.

I want to be the first in line to say "Thank You" to the one who gave me this life. Thanks to Him I'm going the right way and I'm staying off of bridges.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Final Straw (almost)

I could have died. Possibly from blood loss. Most certainly from embarrassment. I am convinced that it will be a passing moment on a seemingly non-lethal day that will eventually "take me out."

It started and ended with a straw.

Those who know me understand that I am propelled by two things. Sunshine. Caffeine. Mix the two together and, not only am I good for the day, but I'll probably manage to engage in unintentional self-humiliation several times. It is my lot in life.

And on a sunny Saturday I was on a quest to satisfy my unquenchible thirst for a sparkly, ice cold, Vanilla Coke. I stood by the soda fountain with 44 ounces of goodness in my hand. I squeezed the plastic lid onto the styrofoam cup, grabbed a straw from the bin and banged the end of it on the counter to force it to poke its little tip out the other end. Whoever runs the machinery that wraps these straws in clear plastic must have a PhD in sadism. It clings tightly to the straw, refusing to relinquish it from its grasp. But a firmly, well placed "thump" on the counter will cause about a quarter of an inch to burst through to freedom. I had accomplished just that. I raised the free part of the straw to my mouth and grabbed it with my teeth, preparing to drag the wrapper off the other end. That's when my left hand turned on me. The one holding the cup. I moved to put it on the counter when a noise to my left distracted me. Turning my head to find its source was my undoing. The bottom of the straw jammed into the top of my left hand. Momentum took over. The straw rocketed through my not-yet-clinched teeth and embedded into the back of my throat.

And when I say embedded, I mean "EMBEDDED."

This was the kind of impact that takes you by surprise and makes your gag reflax go into overdrive. I grabbed the straw and pulled it out of my mouth, eyes tearing up, throat shocked by the savagery of the sneak attack. I looked at the offending plastic tubing. The end of it held a nice, neat, round piece of Ron meat. I actually saw a part of myself stuck inside a straw. How many people can say that?

It's been two days now. I'm trying not to swallow any more than absolutely necessary. Speaking at church yesterday was interesting. I avoided big words, prefering to use their single-syllible cousins. The bleeding stopped Saturday evening, which is good because the Red Cross is calling me about every other day wanting more of my platelets. I think I am down to ... three. They can have two of them. Just leave me one for old time sake.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

And The Moment Was Golden

She is two years old and the sun rises and sets in her eyes. This little blonde princess seems unable to decide if she will be shy or the eternal extrovert. All I know is that when I enter the room for some odd reason her face breaks into a smile. If I do not walk immediately to her side she will come to mine. Her arms go up, hands extended, eyes asking the silent question. "Will you hold me?"

(Little girl, the tides will stop lapping against the shores, the birds will forever forget their song, the planets will cease to rotate before I will respond to your question with anything short of a "yes.")

As she settles into my lap she looks until she sees a laptop or my ipad which is always close by my side. She points at it. I know what is coming. Two words joined into one. "Airplane." I do not know where she learned a love for flying as she has never flown. At least not in her waking moments. I suspect that her sleep finds her coasting tranquilly through broken clouds, playing tag with her own shadow. She has fallen in love with the equation of altitude + motion. Their sum, in her gentle eyes amounts to "happy." Where she came by this I know not.

She waits patiently, legs dangling across mine, as I type in the perfect web address that will satisfy her hunger. And for the next minutes we soar together on the wings of fighter planes and shiny red bi-plane racers. As one video comes to an end she looks at the selection and points to the one she wants next. She leans into me and I feel her relax as yet another dream dances across the screen.

She was mine last Saturday. She sat in my car as she, her sister, her grandmother, and I drove to a nearby air force base. Outside the main gate is an airplane park. Huge cargo planes sit in a semi-circular configuration, beckoning a welcome home to the airmen who call this place home. I held her hand as we walked among the jets, her eyes ablaze with the knowledge that these metallic creatures are hers to touch. She points at the door of a monstrous jet and says, "knock!" Instead I lift her high off the ground and tell her to knock herself. She hesitates, small hand clenched into a fist. And she knocks half scared that some one will answer. They do not. And we move on to the next airplane.

An hour later we sit together in a McDonalds, fulfilling her supper request. She eats a meal punctuated by trips to a console of computer games for children. Finally she settles in my lap. As she lifts a french fry to her mouth she looks up into my eyes. The hand with no fry reaches for my face. I pause, not knowing what she is doing. With an open palm she runs her skin agains the skin of my cheek. She pulls away only to repeat her gentle touch. This time longer, seemingly lost in thought. I do not know what two years olds think of. But I know love when it touches me.

I am her grandpa and I took her to airplanes. And the moment was golden.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Adidas On The Asphalt Revisited

I've been thinking a lot today about yesterdays Adidas on the asphalt. Stark, sober, reminders of the fragility of life. Nobody expects to die today. But it is more than that. The picture in my head represents more than the imminent possibility of the unexpected. It is...

The stuff of heaven meeting the stuff of earth. The holy in a violent collision with the unholy. Shoes do not tell much of the story. Not really. The God of heaven stooped down to the dust and formed a man. He breathed life ... and holiness ... into the body of clay. And the profane became sacred. Very sacred, indeed. A life lived without conscious awareness of the nearness of God is a life wasted. But as long as the life remains in the body there is still hope. Hope that the body-dweller will wake up to his uniqueness. Hope that the eternal breath will be recognized. Confessed for what it is. Hope that the life will change and begin living up to its exquisite potential.

Was this the story of the Adidas man? Was he ever made aware of how special he was? Did he know that God Himself created him? Chose him to live in this time and this place? Did he yield to this imaginative God? Was he living up to his potential? Honestly, I am clueless and I forever will be.

But I know this. Each of us bears the image of our creator. Just as those black shoes had the triple stripes of the Adidas Corporation we have the mark of God branded across our very souls. I choose to live my life faithful to my brand. Whether my end comes on an asphalt expressway or a nursing home bed is of little consequence to me. I prefer to exercise my brain cells to focus on the undefined period of time I have before I become permanently horizontal. It is so important to me ... to you ... to recognize the end as imminent without spending an excess moment dwelling upon it. The pursuit of our purpose is far too vital to be concerned about our end. I can do something about the former. I can only accept the latter.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Words from the Bible. God became flesh and walked this fascinating planet Himself. He wove His story into mine. I can barely wrap my brain around that. And then ... and then one day his sandals were stripped from Him and he was tortured and executed so that I would not be. The sinless paying the way for the sinful. Righteousness laying it self down and taking on sin as its new identity. He was not just affected by sin. He was MADE SIN ... for me. And I go free. Free to worship or free to worry. Free to follow or free to flee. Free to live by faith or free to cling to my own folly.

The asphalt saw violence yesterday. It left me breathless in its stark contrast to the son that I was soon hugging and the grandson I found myself caught up in playing with. The violence came roaring back after the lights were off and the distractions melted into the darkness. And it comes back tonight as well. And because it did I realized I needed to finish last nights story. I seem to have ended it too early. To abruptly. I failed to tell you that you are deeply loved. You have a purpose. You are not an accident. Your creator loves you and His Son, Jesus, showed you that love on a cross of death. He desires your love in return. I hope you will offer it to him. I hope the Adidas man did too. It is too late for him to do anything about it. But you ... you still have time.

Use the time wisely.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Adidas On The Asphalt

Today began before sunrise for me. I am nocturnal. I love the night. The calming silence is a healing balm to the often weary soul. My days and evenings are spent trying to love people well. When I curl up with a book or a laptop after my bride is asleep I find my mind coming alive with ideas and fancies that never strike me at the noon hour. Morning bugs me. I smile when people poke fun at my disdain for morning. Most think that makes you lazy. I’m not. It is 11:10 at night and I just finished working on Sunday’s sermon. I prefer it this way.

But today I got up early. I had a meeting to go to. After its completion I began driving through the city of St. Louis to my sons house. I was listening to talk radio … a rarity for me but I was interested in the conversation about local baseball hero Albert Pujols. The sun was bright and the temperature was perfect. The post-rush-hour traffic was light on I-70 until, without notice, the vehicles ahead of me all moved into my lane and nearly came to a complete halt. I made what can only be described as a “panic stop.” My eyes were on the rearview mirror as the tractor trailer behind me squealed his brakes and left tire smoke in his wake. I was grateful that friction completed its task with roughly ten feet to spare. After a moment the traffic began moving, slowly inching forward. And then I passed emergency cones that blocked off the two left lanes. Three police cars and two fire engines came into view. Finally there was a single ambulance-like vehicle marked “Mobile Triage” parked at an odd angle. There were no mangled cars. No sign of any accident. As I drifted by the mobile triage the unthinkable appeared. Fifteen feet to my left lay a blue tarp. Four people knelt around it. From its nearest side protruded two legs and two feet. The image seared in my mind is of black Adidas with red soles.

Not good. Not good at all.

You never expect to see death in the morning. Death is reserved for the late night hospital call or the mad emergency dash to the nursing home. But here? In the middle of the day in the middle of an interstate with no accident? Running shoes that will never again run? What caused this? Was the dead stranger jogging on the interstate? Did he fall off a bridge onto a vehicle and get carried to this spot? How can you die on the middle of an interstate highway without getting in a wreck? Why was he interrupting my happy morning with his unhappy fate?

That's the thing about dying. All of it's sentences end with question marks. The cause of death may be perfectly clear with no autopsy needed but there is always somebody left behind aching for answers. Why him? Why today? Why like that? We live in a world of "why" and the question marks vastly outnumber the exclamation points. It is entirely possible that before the sun rises again my blood may be congealing within my veins. Heart attack. Stroke. House fire. Falling meteorite. Hey ... could happen. Probably not, but it might.

The rest of my day was normal. Like clockwork. Still, as night time has fallen again and I have curled up with my laptop the memory that will forever mark this day is of a pair of black Adidas. Red soles. Blue tarp.

And the never ending question mark.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stupid Picture Chronicles #59

Most communities would actually move the street light pole if it interfered with the stop light. In Bethalto you just bend the pole and ... mission accomplished.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lousy At Rebelling

I have not always been good at getting into trouble. It is a rather recent talent that I have cultivated. I endured my entire high school education without getting one single "Pinky." A "Pinky" is Lincoln-Way High School speak for a card you are given when you get into minor trouble or by being late for a class. Accumulate four "Pinky's" and you have a "Green Sheet" bestowed upon you. A "Green Sheet" is a detention. All detentions were served in the windowless room "109." At least I was told that it was windowless. I never entered room 109. I was trouble-free for four consecutive years. I was even given my own study hall to monitor. My kingdom met every weekday at 5th hour in the high school auditorium. Lincoln-Way's auditorium was a real one. It had rows of theatre seats all on a nice incline. They faced a real stage with a real curtain. For an hour each day I was Auditorium Czar. If you talked during study hall I had authority to issue you a "Pinky." In 1973 this was the high school equivalent of holding the keys to life and death. Jocks feared me.

And yet somewhere around 1983 I got a bad reputation. It really isn't fair. Nothing about me had changed. Well, nothing by my address. It was in March of 1983 that I relocated from the western suburbs of Chicago to the easter suburbs of St. Louis. And when I arrived I brought my passion for Chicago sports with me. That includes the Bears. And the Bulls. And the White Sox. And the Cubs. Especially the Cubs. (Doesn't matter to me when people say I can't cheer for both Chicago baseball teams. My response is simple and clear. "Bah." I'm a grown man and I can cheer for whoever I want to cheer for. And I've cheered for both of them since I was 7 years old. So I say it again ... "BAH! Besides, nobody cares if I cheer for the White Sox. They are seen as benign American League bottom feeders. So I seldom discuss them. Besides, they won The Big One in '05. I have a mini-trophy in my cave to prove it.) I have made great friends though out my years in two St. Louis suburbs. The best friends and longest lasting friends of my life. And yet every time baseball season rolls around we get all bent out of shape and crossways with each other. Cubs. Cardinals. Oil. Water. Same difference.

It will never change.

Yeah, I know my teams not got a good track record over the last century or so. But what exactly does that have to do with whether or not I love them? My wife loves me even when she looks at me in the morning and my breaths smells bad and my hair isn't combed and I've drooled all over my pillow. I just seem to have fallen for a halitosis laden, unkempt, drooling, baseball team. That doesn't mean I'm going to walk away from them. If I did I wouldn't be worth the autographed Ferguson Jenkins jersey that adorns the wall of my man-cave.

This year the Cardinals are in the World Series. Again. They have been making a habit of that. This doesn't please me at all. I must admit that they have had a fantastic run over the last month of the season as well as during the post-season. Talent is talent and they do have more of that right now than the Cubs have. Doesn't mean I'm going to cheer for them. Doesn't mean I want them to win. It just means I'm "naughty" in my adopted home town. I can live with that. I've tried to remain relatively quiet and let my friends enjoy this romp into potential glory. I've only left snide comments when provoked. And oh do they know how to provoke ...

Baseball naughty isn't like real life naughty. You don't get a pinky for it. Much less a green sheet. And for the life of me I can't figure out who the baseball czar is. I just know it isn't me. And if the Rangers win one more game it won't be Albert "Don't Ever Pitch To That Man" Pujols either. At least I do have a game plan. I'm going to continue NOT knocking over 7-11's, hijacking Brinks trucks, stealing candy from children, or otherwise disturbing the universe. And I'm going to keep right on wearing my Cubs jersey, Sox jersey, and Bears jersey on every appropriate occasion. It isn't much. It won't get me on anybodies "10 Most Wanted List." Face it ...

I'm just lousy at rebelling.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I have recently acquired an imaginary dog. His name is Rex. He is a chocolate brown Boxer. Do not worry. I purchased him with imaginary money. He sleeps on my bed across my feet at night. Other that that he is not allowed on the furniture. We have had dogs before and they were allowed on chairs and sofas. We all know that doesn't lead anywhere good. I feel very blessed to have such a great dog. An imaginary boxer was the only kind Debbie would allow in our home and I didn't want an outside dog. Here is her picture. I took it against the trees last week while we were in Michigan...

And here is a shot of her running ahead of me down the road. Six months old and no leash! What a beauty ...

I was talking with God today and the subject of dogs came up. Dogs were God's idea. Well, most of them were. He pretty much told me that He had nothing to do with Rex and that an imaginary dog was all on me. I'm good with that. Anyway, we were talking. I was remembering my old Golden Retriever, Bear. He was a real dog. Nothing imaginary about him. My kids will testify to that truth because it certainly wasn't imaginary poop they had to pick-up from the dog run in our backyard every week. Here's the thing about Bear. He loved me. I mean, he really, REALLY, loved me. Bear didn't know that I had any faults or flaws. He was a very good dog. Very smart. And he would pretty much do anything I took a minute to teach him to do. I honestly taught him to go to the kids rooms and pick-up their dirty socks in his mouth. Then if he would bring them into the laundry room I would trade him the dirty socks for a Milky Bone. Now that is a smart dog. Bear was totally committed to our family. Of course, he loved me the most. I'm the one that kept him in doggy treats. Today I asked God to help me to love Him as much as Bear loved me. Without condition. Without giving it a second thought. I asked Him to help me to love Him with an unbridled passion. I really want to. I'm not always good at it though. That's why I need help. It is the desire of my heart to love God with passion in my eyes, purpose in my step, and a firm conviction in my heart. I want to live every moment to make Him smile whether He ever gives me another treat or not. I guess unselfish love was the gift that Bear taught me. Freely I received ... now freely I will give.

Say "goodnight," Rex.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reflections From A Parking Garage

(A follow-up appointment at "The Retina Institute" today required the dilation of my eyes again. This time it was rather unexpected and I drove alone. And operating a vehicle while 75% blind is not a good idea. So here I sits ... in a hospital parking garage ... 3 hours after the appointment ... waiting for normalcy so that I can negotiate rush hour and return home. In order to avoid wasting this time in totality I have chose to learn from the experience. And thus I submit to you, kind reader, "Reflections From A Parking Garage.")

-Parking garages do not have wifi. This could seriously hinder the war on terror. I have been scouring incoming vehicles for potential car bombs. Yet if I spot one my ability to disrupt it's devious and diabolical plans take a serious blow because I cannot hit buttons at random in an attempt to detonate the bomb before it reaches its target. This could cost me my well earned nickname "Captain Safety." Would somebody fix this problem, please?

-Parking garages bounce. I know, I know. If they didn't bounce they would snap apart under the tremendous pressure of cars zipping back and forth. The bounce absorbs the punishment. After 3 hours the trampoline effect has me queazy. This particular garage may well survive the day, but it also might do so with the contents of my stomach on its conscience.

-Speaking of the contents of my stomach. There aren't any. I didn't know I would be spending the entire afternoon here. I have a half eaten bottle of Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts to keep me company. Sad to think that Chick-Fil-A is only a couple of miles further down the highway.

-I keep looking in the mirror to check on my eyes. Like every 5 minutes. And there is absolutely zero color. Just this black line where the iris (I think that's what they call that colored circle thingy) is suppose to be. This isn't a good sign. Parking garages are dark. I walked outside to get some fresh air about an hour ago and GOOD LORD, IT'S BRIGHT OUT THERE!!!! It appeared to be Armageddon but it was just the sun, which is selling off all it's rays at discounted prices in preparation for a bleak winter.

-I cannot help but wonder if you can die from carbon monoxide in an indoor parking lot that has no doors and no walls. You aren't suppose to be able to smell carbon monoxide but I ... oh ... wait ... I think the peanuts are causing ... never mind.

-Why won't radio signals penetrate into parking structures? Aren't they suppose to be our first line of information in case of enemy attack or tornadoes or something? Do you have ANY IDEA how many people are in the parking garages of America at any given moment? I don't either but I'll bet it's a lot. And we are all at risk because of shoddy radio signals. I'm not sure who to blame so I'll put it on Obama. He's taking the blame for everything else.

-I've been waiting for the coppers or detectives or "special agents" to come by and shoot the place up. As of yet ... and I'm closing in on 4 hours ... not one. This flies in the face of everything I have ever learned on "Hawaii 5 0." So who is lying? Hollywood or the parking garage? I leave it for you to decide. But while we are on the subject, what the heck is so "special" about a "special agent?" Are there "not so special agents?" Or simply, "agents?" And if so, why don't they ever get on a tv show? I smell conspiracy. Obama.

-I am on Level 3 Section C. I wonder who is parked right under me. I wonder if they know how many peanuts I have eaten.

Do you suppose anybody famous has ever parked exactly where I am right now? Like Larry Conners maybe. Or Albert Pujols (who will look stunning next to the ivory in blue pinstripes next April.) or perhaps somebody of national significance like "Becky The Queen Of Carpets."

-Who says you can't learn anything in a parking garage?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Bleed Gold

I gave blood a few months ago. Now the American Red Cross is pursuing me like a Doberman after a pork chop. Like an Eskimo after a baby seal. Like a politician after a tax hike. Like Dracula after a neck. Like a bald guy after ... what do bald guys go after? Never mind. You get my point. They are mailing me. They are emailing me. They are calling me on the phone. I think one of their guys followed me home from work today. I lost him when I cut through the library parking lot. (Sorry about the books, granny. Didn't you hear me honk?)

I. Bleed. Good.

It's not just my blood that they want. Oh, no. That's for commoners and peasants. They want platelets. MY platelets. I seem to have a lot of them. Down at the local Red Cross Collection Site they call me "Mr. High Octane Platelet Guy."

So I guess that platelets are these things in you blood that have magical and mystical clotting powers. If you don't have enough you might bleed to death. If you have too many you might have a heart attack or a stroke. Geez. Back-up the sudden death truck! If I have a lot of platelets ... I COULD BE ABOUT TO DIE!!!! I hadn't thought about that until just now as I began typing this paragraph. Hmmm. (Let it go, Ron. Let it go.) Platelets live between 5 and 9 days. I suppose they die after that. This conjures up mental images of teeny tiny little funerals rushing through my veins. I suppose there may be 2 day old platelets that are platelet pastors and they conduct services for the dearly departed. Other platelets gather around and sing or say nice things about the past-tense-platelet. It's a very sad affair.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. For the sake of humanity I have chosen to bleed. We are at war, people. If it is platelets the people need, it is platelets they shall get! (Did I mention that it takes up to 3 HOURS to donate platelets? Sheesh. I hope they have wifi. Or plenty of cookies and juice. Or both. You suppose they have Oreos?) Never let it be said that I failed America in it's hour of greatest need. Up goes the sleeve. Out goes the blood. Round and round it goes in the Centrifuge until all of the platelets are whisked away. And then back into my arm goes the blood.

I forgot to tell you about that. They are going to take my blood out, screw with it, and then put it back in me. I mean, that's in laymen's terms. Here it is in technical terms ... "We are going to remove blood from "Patient A" and suck from it all valuable ingredients. We shall then inject the worthless left over used up depleted stripped of all possible good blood back into "Patient A" where it will (hopefully) keep him from collapsing to the floor in a lifeless ball of flesh or rocketing around the room backward like a balloon on crack with a hole in it." (Wikipedia)

Now let's get personal. This is to you, Alex Babot. And you, Adam Page. And you too, Mr. Joe Dills ... maybe I can't bleed as fast as you young bucks can ... but when it comes to quality ... I OWN YOU.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dumb Thoughts For Late Night

Today I have practiced "free thinking." I read about this being a good thing to do when developing leadership skills. And so today I've been keeping notes and trying to be aware of the world around me. And then I allowed myself to ask questions about what I saw. No rules. No limits. Tonight I read my notes and, well, it scared me. I present my day for your reading pleasure.

1. I have heard it said that if life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. Does that mean if life gives me alligators I should make gatorade?

2. If you try to fail and you succeed at it does that negate your failure or your success?

3. Do caskets come with warranties?

4. After an alligator eats does he have to wait an hour before getting out of the water?

5. There is no such thing as a "nonstop flight." I mean ... sooner or later ...

6. Isn't cremating a burn victim the ultimate insult?

7. Is there any kind of correlation between infants/infancy and adults/adultery?

8. If you have x-ray vision, and you can see through anything, wouldn't you see through everything and actually see nothing?

9. I read today that only one in every seven rapes is reported. How do they know that?

I'm done. I got nutten else.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The "Eyes" Have It

I have been having "fun with my face" this week. If you have been hanging around this place in the woods very long you may remember that I also had fun with my face last January. Well, what smote my left eye last winter came out of hibernation to smite my right eye on Friday evening. We were with our church family at Busch Stadium watching the Cardinals play the Padre's ... I mean the Pirates ... and having a great time. Never mind that I really thought we were playing the Padre's until the 7th inning when someone pointed out that I kept saying "Padre's" when I should be saying "Pirates." Well hey, I wasn't watching the game. I was talking and eating and doing the important things that Cub fans do at ballparks in August. I really did think it was the Padre's way down there. But that's not important. Somewhere around the 5th inning I looked up towards the lights on top of the stadium and ...oops ... some huge weird shaped spider web like thing floated in front of my right eye. Crud. I knew immediately what had happened. I covered my eyes with my hands and turned my eyeballs real fast from the right to the left. Yep. I saw "lightening" on the right part of my right eye. This is technically called a "post vitreous detachment." Or so I assumed. I didn't want to ruin a perfectly beautiful evening so I only mentioned it to the person sitting next to me (Hi, Diana!) and my wife, Debbie. There's not much you can do with this. You just deal with it and it begins to calm itself down after about 6 months. The problem is in making sure that a post vitreous detachment is really what is wrong. Because it also could be a torn or detached retina. And if you don't jump on that quickly, well, you just flat out go blind. And that's not a good option. I still own DVD's that I haven't watched. That's why I found myself at the ophthalmologists office yesterday at 10AM. I might mention that ophthalmologists hate me. They like to hold me down in the big chair and TOUCH MY EYE BALL. And if I have one motto in life it is simple and clear ... "Touch my eye and die." I broke my rule but only because Debbie wouldn't let me go rogue. So they squirted this stuff in my eyes to make them dilate. This basically makes you pretty much blind anyway so I wasn't sure why I was even in the office in the first place. It opens your iris all the way so that light can just dance its way in and have its way with you. And after the iris is all the way open they take out these lights that are pretty much borrowed from the sun and the focus it directly into your eyes. Rob Bell says there really isn't a hell. Rob Bell has never had this experience. But because you are a big boy you don't grab the doctor by the throat, strangle him, and hide his body behind the dumpster. But you want to. Yesterday Dr. Brilliant couldn't see all of my retina because there was too much "debris" inside my eye. He really said that. I have debris inside my eye. I thought debris was what you found in the wake of a tornado or perhaps a nuclear mishap. But I have it inside my eye. And because Boy Wonder couldn't see behind the debris he got his magic Q-Tip and began poking ON MY EYE. He was trying to make the debris move away so he could tell if my retina was torn. Or perhaps he was trying to tear my retina himself. I couldn't really tell. But either way he failed. So I had to go to a retina specialist today. Actually, I think these two guys are room mates. I believe one sets the patient up and the other slams him the next day. It took two highly educated brainiacs to tell me that I didn't have a hole in my head. Well, at least not in my retina. Thanks, boys. The next yachts on me. Now I can resume living. I can read and watch TV and follow the bouncing ball with both eyes. I can do everything but get kicked in the head by a mule or take up sumo wrestling. And that's a real shame because I was really wanting to sumo wrestle a mule. It will have to wait 6 months when I go back for final clearance and the opportunity to pay off the doctors condo on Maui. So it's been a good week over all. Things float around in my field of vision in both eyes. That's kind of fun because I play games with them, trying to get the tangled up with each other or trying to spell Albuquerque with them. It's really cool to do that when I'm driving. Even cooler when I'm texting and driving. Coolest of all when I'm texting, driving, and have dilated eyes. And in the dark I have lightening inside of my head. When I turn my head really fast or my eyes really fast. Now think about this. Once you discover this fact ... how hard do you think it is to resist making it lightening every 15 seconds or so? It's nearly impossible. I have the power over lightening. I'm still working on the thunder. Oh. And I'm not going blind. So there's that. But dude, when I paid ... I didn't even get a sucker.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Up And To The Right

Tonight I sat around a table with 3 men who want to change the world. They do not have impressive degrees in theology or a vast library of books on churchology. They do not need either of those things. They have something far more important and far more rare.


We polished off burritos and nacho's and soft drinks but barely noticed. I've been "doing church" in a leadership capacity since I was 19 years old. That's 37 years, sports fans. And I don't know that I've ever worked with men like these before. If you cut them they'll bleed leadership. If you allow them to they'll pepper you with questions about God and the church and they'll give you their exhilarating thoughts on how to live life while loving their families and serving their God. If you listen closely you will catch their enthusiasm. You cannot help it. They are the kind of men you have prayed for and dreamed of for so many years. They will laugh with you as you tell of your mistakes and you know that they'll remember and bring it up again when you least expect it. But you don't mind. They do it because they love you and they let you be real. You don't feel compelled to fake anything around them. You don't have to act like a car salesman moonlighting at the nearest God dealership. There are areas of leadership where I positively stink. Yeah, I know. It's hard to believe but it's true. There are things I should accomplish in a more timely manner. Things I should pay closer attention to. And they know that because, like I said, they are born leaders and they know an "oops" when they see it. But they seem to understand that the reason I often let those areas slide is not laziness or incompetence. It's because I love people and I want to be in their homes or in their hospital rooms or sharing a meal with them in a restaurant. And that means that sitting at a desk drives me positively crazy. And so some of those "important" things just remain on my back burner because I'm having too much fun with the people that are on my front burner. The people of my church. The people that are not "of my church" but will be soon because God just tossed them through the door and they found out that they can get loved there and they can find community there and they can develop a real walk with God there. And we sit and talk about what might be ... what could be ... and how maybe, just maybe, if we are smart and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit and do all of the things that God tells us to do ... just maybe they actually will be.

"Up and to the right." That's where we are going. Get your graph paper out and put a dot on today. We know where we are. And we know where God is calling us. He's calling us to go "up and to the right." We are called to live life large, to love even larger, and to follow Jesus the largest of all. We are called to lay down the silly agenda's of this world and take up the holy calling of being princes and priests. I want to do it with men like these. Men who speak kindly of their wives and who get sparkles in their eyes when they talk of their children. Men who hold their eyes on yours when a pretty girl walks by because they are focused on what matters ... not the frilly, anemic, lust-filled lies of life. They are focused on going "up and to the right."

The trail we walk around here these days is getting more interesting by the day. The hill is steeper and the distance longer. The view causes our hearts to beat more quickly because it begins to remind us of the home that has been prepared for us that we have never seen. But we know we'll get there. We know the way. The way is up. Up and to the right.

Monday, August 22, 2011

30 for 30

Tonight's topic, little chillen, is prayer. And God. And praying to God. And praying to God and hearing HIm answer. I believe in praying specific prayers. None of that "Dear Lord bless everybody on the planet and don't let any one get sick or die. Please let the good guys always win and the bad guys get what's coming to them." That just won't do. I'm more in the camp of those who pray like this ... "God. Excuse me please, sir. I have some things that need your attention. My lawn mower will not start and snakes are closing in on my house from the creek at an alarming rate. I'm not sure if there is water in the gas or the spark plug is bad or what, but YOU know. So would you please fix it. And if you choose not to fix it by the 77th pull on the rope I'll assume you are not in the lawn mower repair business today and I'll make other arrangements. Not a problem, God. But please grant me one thing. STOP THE SNAKES!!!!!"

See the difference? It's profound.

Now I am a pastor I have plenty to pray about. Seldom does a day go by without somebody asking me to pray about something for or with them. I do my best to always say "yes." The only time I say "no" is when it's obviously not something God is going to be interested in doing. I will not pray that you win the lottery. I will not pray that your crack dealer stops faking you out and selling you talcum powder. I will not pray that the Cardinals win the World Series. Obviously those things are outside of God's will. (Ok, the last one was a joke and the Cardinals are proving themselves quite capable of shooting themselves in the foot so let's just let it go.)

I do like to pray for my church. Well, actually it's God's church but He loaned it to me and you know what I mean. I pray all sorts of things for Towerview. I pray that God would use us as His hands and feet. I pray that He would be gracious to us and teach us to follow more closely to His path. I pray that more people might come into His Kingdom through our church and, therefore, that our church would grow numerically. I pray those things and many more daily for Towerview Baptist Church. And I know God hears each of those prayers. Sometimes He seems to say "yes" and sometimes He seems to say "no" but I always pray anyway.

And then sometimes He shouts.

Yesterday one of our deacons came to me before our morning worship service and told me that since my wife and I arrived at Towerview 29 new families have joined. That made me happy. Now I'm not stupid enough to think that they came and joined because of me. Seriously. I know better. Nobody (except for my wife) knows me better than I do and I most certainly would not join a church just because I am the pastor of it. That last sentence sounds odd. But I think you know what I mean. I'm just really honestly NOT a big deal. As a matter-of-fact, I'm not sure that I would join a church that would have me as pastor. (Which is similar to what I tell Debbie when I remind her that I almost didn't marry her because I would not marry a girl that would stoop so low as to marry me.) Anyhow, I'm on my second career. My first lasted for 32 years. I'd say that's long enough to call something a career, wouldn't you? My first career was as a youth pastor. I was passionate about it. I loved (almost) every minute of it! And now I"m in my second career. I fully intend to spend 32 years being a senior pastor. I've only got 4 years in so there is a ways to go. I have to pastor until I'm 86 so get use to me Towerview.

But I digress.

Anyway my deacon friend Bob told me that 29 families had joined since Debbie and I came on February 1, 2009. That was 30 months ago. And you know what happened yesterday morning AFTER he told me that? :) Do you? A family joined our church.

How cool is that?

God has given us 30 new families in 30 months. I-JUST-LOVE-THAT! He is loving and blessing us! He's going bonkers over His kids at The Tower! And He clearly has confirmed for me that I am precisely where I am suppose to be. Not that I was doubting it. I wasn't. But now I am even more certain than I was before. We've gone 30 for 30 at The Tower, Viewers!

I mean ... how good is God anyway?!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Playing For The 4th Quarter

I am not a "Tweet-a-holic." Yes, I have a Twitter account. (Feel free to "follow me." I have little of substance to add to the Twitosphere but my Twitter name is "Rotola.") Today I came across a tweet written by a friend attending a conference for leadership training in Chicago. While listening to a speaker she wrote, "Sometime when you live out a tough calling, you get beat up (like Jeremiah.) Are you available for tough assignments?"

Tough calling.

Beat up.

Tough assignments.

Is that really what I signed on for? Back when I was 13 years old and I accepted the invitation of Jesus to join His band of ragamuffin followers I knew nothing of what lay in store for me. I was just amazed that God would take the time out to speak to me, much less to die a horrible death in my place. I was stunned to realize that He had a plan for my simple life. I figured that if God is good (and He is) then I had best get on board with this offer. So I signed-up to be a full fledged Christ-follower.

Since then there have been truly great days and experiences. There have been truly horrific days and experiences. I had no clue about the highs and the lows waiting for me. I just knew I wanted to know Jesus because He wanted to know me. And I most certainly wanted to get in on this whole heaven deal.

I had no idea that this deal would cost me anything. I fully expected to live a life of my choosing. God had other ideas. It took Him a few years to get His point across but once He did I signed on for the whole adventure. I have made enemies. I have lost friends. Sometimes those I have trusted the most turned out to be the least trustworthy. I have presided over many deaths. I have physically intervened to stop at least one sure-fire suicide. I have taken a dead baby out of his mother's arms. I have seen a teenager hanging from bare rafters. I have stood next to more caskets than I can remember. I have performed weddings for marriages that didn't last a month. I have been on a first name basis with judges, child abuse counselors, DCFS case workers, and police chiefs. Seldom because anything good had transpired to bring us together. I have been threatened with physical violence both in slums and suburbs. I have chased down run-aways. I have sat on the side of an expressway in the Appalachian's at midnight with teenagers on one side of me and a broken down touring bus on the other. I have spoken to 6,000 people at once and I have spoken to 6. I have prepared just as diligently for both.

I could go on talking about my "tough assignments." But I could never ever top Jeremiah. Two huge scriptures come to mind when I think of this guy. The first one is "Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; Before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations…See, I appoint you this day Over nations and kingdoms: to uproot and pull down, To destroy and overthrow, To build and to plant." Wow. "Appointed" by God to be "over" to "uproot" to "pull down" to "destroy" to "overthrow" to "build up" and "to plant." That's quite a job description, eh? And then God told him, "They will fight against you but will not overcome you." I'm sure that must have been good to know. Nobody knows for sure how Jeremiah died but many have speculated that he was the one referred to in Hebrews 11 who was "torn asunder."

Nice. Nice.

I figure that it won't be long before I enter "the 4th quarter" of my life. I'm shooting for 80 and then I'll be ready to be done. So at 56 I've got 4 more years left in the 3rd quarter. I rather wonder what the last quarter will be like? I've watched enough football to know that you get your tiredest in the 4th quarter. I've also learned that it is in the final quarter that the game is won or lost. I want to play full throttle to the very last play. Nothing else will do. I want to win. I want the ring.

"Sometime when you live out a tough calling, you get beat up (like Jeremiah.) Are you available for tough assignments?" There isn't even a hint of a doubt in my mind ...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Dear Pai Rae ...

Oh dear granddaughter. The world has gone and done it to you already. You are not even two yet and already you feel the sting of loneliness and the confusion of change. It seems that your precious sister has deserted you on your morning drive to day care in favor of kindergarten. You must ride in the back seat of mom's Jeep all by yourself. Even your once-a-week buddy, Judah, has deserted you for another set of friends in another day care! If you only had the ability to master the english language I'm sure your cry would be, "No fair!"

I hate to break it to you, child, but you are right. It is no fair. And I hate to break this to you even more ... life itself is no fair.

Your mom said you just leaned your head on the side of your car seat this morning and cried. Gosh I wish I could have been there. I would have cried with you. Or ... maybe better yet ... we could have figured out a game to play. Or maybe we could have held hands. Oh! Or we could have eaten Oreo's with wonderfully cold milk! And we would never have told your mother. Nah. She wouldn't be mad. But let her get her own Oreos. :) Sometimes a grandpa and a granddaughter just have to keep their secrets, ya know?

Listen to me, little one. There are going to be days when the playground feels a little lonely. Sometimes your friends just won't act like friends. And it's true that, on occasion, families are even far apart for a season. Those things will wound your heart. And I'd do anything ... ANYTHING ... to protect your heart. I'll do my best to always be around but it's possible that someday I won't be. So I want you to remember something. Something really important.

Today I walked through a huge museum and looked at airplanes and space ships. They were all famous. It was a fun place. And then I came across one particular space ship. A "capsule" really. It was nicknamed "The Friendship 7." One day nearly 50 years ago a man climbed into it all alone. His mom and dad were down on the ground. His brothers and sisters were too. Most of his friends were hundreds of miles away. And when this guy got into his space ship the lit the fuse on the rocket under him and he zoooooomed off into outer space. And for a few brief orbits around our planet he was really truly alone. l As alone as a person can be. But the man had one thing working for him. He couldn't see his friends but he could still talk to them. They had these really old style radio things that were all scratchy and garbled. But they could still understand each other. And the man in the capsule said that those voices were a bit of "home" to him while he was way out in the middle of no where.

That's kind of the way life is, Pais. Sometimes friends go away. Sometimes they might even get all messed up and stop being your friend. I'm sorry, little girl, but I have to tell you that it happens. But here's the thing. If you are ever all alone and you need someone to love you ... someone to talk to ... please feel free to punch the right numbers into your own phone (or your mom's!) and I will move heaven and earth to be there for you. Lot's of people will. But do me a favor, please. Keep me near the top of your phone book. Because you, sweet Paisley, will always be on the top of mine.

A sorta old man love you ... a lot.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

Things I am most thankful for...

1. God
2. God's love.
3. God's love shown through His Son.
4. God's love shown through His Son's sacrificial death.
5. God's love shown through His Son's sacrificial death applied to my life.
6. Grace
7. Grace that is sufficient.
8. Grace that is sufficient for me.
9. Grace that is sufficient for me to forget the past.
10.Grace that is sufficient for me to forget the past and not fear destroying my future.
11.My family.
12.My family being together.
13.My family being together and enjoying each other.
14.My family being together and enjoying each other with laughter and joy.
15.My family being together and enjoying each other with laughter and joy big enough to make them hate to go to bed.
16.My friends.
17.My friends that love me back.
18.My friends that love me back and let me be real.
19.My friends that love me back and let me be real even when I am obnoxious.
20.My friends that love me back and let me be real even when I am obnoxious with little chance of getting better.
21.Other stuff...a cozy fire in the fireplace/Debbie's corn casserole/quiet conversations about things that matter/funny conversations about things that don't matter/music that brings me into the presence of God/fresh hot cinnamon rolls/gadgets/medicine/plungers/sleep/people that get excited when you show them how to serve others/digital camera's/vanilla/coke/vanilla coke/ice/candle's/friends that understand/the laughter of my grandchildren/the smile of my wife/standing ovations deserved/back rubs/sunshine

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tale of Four Cities and A Bottle of Whiskey

I'm not certain if this is funny or just sad. As I arrived at church tonight I noticed our Director of Security talking to a man in the parking lot. It was obvious at first glance that he was being asked for money. The man was driving a pick-up truck that was rented from U-Haul. It bore Arizona license plates. As I got out of the car I entered into the conversation. The man was hoping for a cash contribution. He needed gasoline to get to the bedside of his soon to be deceased mother in Memphis, Tennessee. He was asking for five dollars.

(Memphis is several hundred miles away. Five dollars will not buy you two gallons of gasoline. I do not think that U-Haul's get 150mpg. This was my first clue.)

Adam, our Director of Security, had strolled off to look at the mans truck. There was no luggage in it. There was, however, a bottle of whiskey. (This was our second and third clues.)

I told the man that we do not give out cash but that if he would fill out the proper application we would look it over and after a back ground check by the police department we might be able to help him in the morning. He told me that he had already been to the police station and they had given him some spare change. He said that he had to get to Memphis tonight because his mother would be passing away in three days. Seriously. I asked him how he knew that it would be three days before she expired. He told me that the doctor had told him. (This was our fourth clue.)

So for clarification I tried to restate the situation. "So you live here, you rented the truck, and now you need to be in Memphis and five dollars in gas is going to help you?" He told me that I was not listening and that if I would just listen I would surely understand. He said that he doesn't live here he lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, and that was also where he rented the truck.

Little Rock.


(This was our fifth clue.)

I asked the man if he knew where he was. He said that he did. I told him that he was in the suburbs of St. Louis. He told me that he knew that. I asked why he had driven to St. Louis to get to Memphis when he started in Little Rock. His reply was that U-Haul had given him bad directions. I really tried very hard not to laugh. Honestly, I did. Our friend could have driven from Little Rock to Memphis and back again and not traveled as far as he had come. I drew a triangle in the air to illustrate his situation. I looked at Adam and, honestly, he looked like he needed a little of this guys whiskey.

This was the time that he decided to play his "I'm not a redneck" card. I replied that I had never called him a redneck. And he told me that I kept telling him the same thing over and over. I said that was because he kept asking the same question over and over. Now he said that if I wasn't going to help him I should just say so.

I said so.

He got in his truck and left all in a huff, rented tires spinning on the parking lot asphalt. As he pulled out onto Lebanon Avenue there were four police cars sitting along side the road on what was obviously a drug-bust on a car they had pulled over. The U-Haul wisely slowed down and made his way ... toward Indianapolis.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dear Anonymous ...

Your comment on my last blog post prompted me to take it off the site, at least temporarily. Whether or not I put it back up is a question I will deal with later.

More importantly I want you to know that you have misinterpreted the meaning of that piece of writing. I usually write about my experiences as a human being trying to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Anonymous, I would love to respond to you directly but I cannot do that because I do not know who you are. If you would like a deeper and more personalized explanation please e-mail me at Otherwise, all I can do is say a public, "I am sorry that my writings hurt you."

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Man On The Frozen Perch

Once upon a time a tired and lonely man rode an elevator up to the 9th floor of a building situated precisely where he did NOT want to be. He exited the elevator and used the metal key to allow himself entrance into the apartment that he most assuredly did NOT want to enter. The room was dark. It was dark because nobody lived there except for the man. He turned on a single light bulb hidden behind a purple (yes, purple) glass covering. The top of the apartment was white. The bottom of the apartment was white. The middle four feet of the apartment was a brown strip of paint that reached to every wall and every corner and wrapped around him into infinity. The tired and lonely man felt his stomach turn as he looked at the brown paint made black by the purple light. He saw his inflated blow-up bed and he thought of his lovely king sized bed that existed with all of its pillows and comforters in another time and another place. He saw his duffle bag in the corner full of clothes purchased in a lifetime that seemed not to be this life time. Perhaps worst of all he heard the howl. He had been in this apartment for fully four weeks now and the howl was present every night. He approached the sliding door and opened it. There was another sliding door beyond the first and he opened it as well. He stepped out on a slab of concrete suspended 90 feet in the air. The power of the howling wind took his breath away. The temperature, insanely far below zero, made his lungs hurt and within seconds his face was numb. Below, in the dim light which reflected from a nearby city, off of the clouds, the man saw lines of white. Turbulent lines. Churning lines. Angry threatening lines. These lines were waves and they would surely have washed over him, would have erased his misery by a merciful drowning, had he not been suspended far above them in his frozen perch.

A frozen perch 90 feet above death. It seemed appropriate.

The tired and lonely man made his way back within the safety and the warmth of his doors. As his face thawed he was grateful for the burn of nerve endings returning to life. He felt somehow that pain was appropriate. Surely a physical pain would be required to pay for whatever sins had sent him to this wretched life in this wretched place above his liquid death. He sat on the floor and leaned against the doors now covered in moisture. Moisture from the mixing of the heat within and the cold without. A winters dew of sorts. He felt the dew soak through his shirt and touch his skin. Any touch was welcome these days.

Opening a small rectangular and flat box resting by his side brought a jolt of life to the tired mans dim world. Within this box he could travel home and see memories in the millions of tiny pixels that glowed with an air of certainty from its screen. If pixels had feelings these were confident and reassuring. The little box would sometimes reveal the faces of those he remembered and missed. Sometimes letters would arrive in that box and he would read them. He lived for those pixels. Without them he would be truly and forever alone. And tonight the box held a letter! A letter from a precious one younger than himself. With true anticipation one only knows when he has not gazed into the eyes of another human soul in any meaningful way for far too long he clicked twice and opened the letter. It was poetry. Poetry that did not rhyme but nonetheless did sooth the soul. Yes, poetry to his heart. Among many other words the young one wrote the following...

"I cannot imagine what it must be like in that tiny room of that tiny apartment staring at that big lake. But I do know that you are living your story. And those who know you know that you are writing a story that anybody would want to read."

The tired and lonely man read the letter several times. And then he closed the lid on the precious pixels. He bowed his head. He gave a silent thanks for the pain. For the loneliness. For the seeming utter destitution of his life. Perhaps nobody understood. Perhaps nobody could "imagine what it must be like in that tiny room of that tiny apartment staring at that big lake." But a kind young one had spoken from her heart words that reminded him that he had not been forgotten by the one who writes the stories. She had taken the time to say "I care and I am reading" when every other life on earth seemed unaware of the man in the frozen perch. God breathed fresh life through an inkless, paperless, letter. And a little bit of the tired went away. A little bit of the loneliness lifted. He wondered if his story was to be a drama and a tragedy though he prayed for a comedy.

There would be many more dark nights for the tired and lonely man. Much more howling. But he kept that letter in a special place among the pixels. And when the tiredness seemed overwhelming and the loneliness seemed to swallow his soul he would click on it twice and read it again. And he would find the strength to get up, face the waves, and write more of his story. Someday, though he did not know it yet, it would serve him well as that young one became tired and a bit lonely herself. And he would on that day tell her that he actually did have a little glimpse of what it must be like to be in the darkness hearing the howling and wondering a bit fearfully what would come next.

And he would tell her that her story ... her story was beautiful. For her story did have drama. Her story did have comedy. But far and above everything else her story was a love story written by an author who could be trusted. And he, for one, could not wait to read it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The most important things never make the text books

It's the last week of June. That always reminds me of two things.

A - I'm a year older than I was last week.

B - The last birthday gift my father ever gave me was his funeral. Thanks, dad! There was only 51 other weeks to choose from. I appreciate it!

So I always find my thoughts turning to my father on this week. He's been gone 11 years and I still find myself occasionally starting to reach for the phone to call him up. The truth is that dad would now be 91 years old. And he would have made an awesome 100 year old guy had God blessed him with 20 more years. Alas, it was not to be. But I was thinking about him tonight while washing the car in preparation for a trip to Chicago tomorrow. And I started thinking about the things on this trip that would have wowed him. The things that have changed since he went home in 2000.

Dad would have been shocked by the little box that will hang by suction cup from my windshield tomorrow. To think that it is communicating with at least three satellites and that it was displaying a map while a young woman's voice was directing my every turn would have blown him away.

Dad was no stranger to the existence of cell phones. He never owned one but he "fiddled" (his word, not mine!) with my bulky, early generation phone once or twice. I would have loved to take him to the app on my phone that shows a relatively close-up from-outer-space view of virtually anywhere on the planet. He would not believe that I could pull up an image from beyond earth that shows his house and even the car in his driveway. Or the one that, by touching one button, gives me the address, web site, and directions to any restaurant in his town. He would have been amazed that I could take his picture with my phone and within 60 seconds my brother could be looking at it on his phone in Chicago 600 miles away.

Dad would have loved that I could bring a king size bed with me to his house and blow it up to make it 24 inches thick and sleep as comfortably in his family room as he would in his bed. He would wonder why they didn't invent them back when he was sleeping in the trenches of France or Germany in WWII.

On-Star would have left him speechless.

My father would have been mesmerized by the size and crystal clarity of a typical TV today. And he would say he didn't need one but I promise you that one would be in his family room tuned to professional wrestling (or, as he called it, "rasslin."). And he wouldn't miss one televised Cubs game for sure.

But I think the thing that would surprise my dad the most if he showed up this week in 2011 would be that if he looked at me he would see his wedding ring on the pinky finger of my right hand and one of his WWII dog tags hanging by a chain from my neck. I miss him more than I can say and when I touch those things I can kind of feel him in them.

And the older I get the more I seem to need to feel him around. I wish I had known much, much, earlier that life works that way. Some how the most important things never make it into the text books.

Friday, June 24, 2011

And Then I Heard Him Laugh

Sometimes God likes to remind me that He is God. I suppose that on occasion I need a refresher lesson in that truth. You know how it is. Life happens. We get into rhythms and our days melt one into another and before you know it we have drifted into the assumption that we are in charge and in control. We come to believe that if we don't get everything just right, well, the world is going to be in big trouble.

My shoulders are not that big.

And so God throws days like today into the mix. (Let me state early on that I don't at all believe that God did the things He did today simply for me. I think His purposes were bigger than that. But He surely had me in mind as well as those other people and things. I want to be a good "under-study." So I'm striving to pay attention.) These are the days and these are the ways that God delights in teaching me for the gazillionth time that He is the one, the only, "I Am."

As I woke up today I did one thing before my feet ever touched the floor. Before my eyes even opened to confirm that it was time to get moving. I asked God very simply to please "order my steps today. I need to be in some places at key times and I don't know what those times are so please take charge of my schedule." That was a simple enough prayer. After whispering it I thought no more of it. Then it was time to be rolling out of bed, showering, shaving, doing all of those morning things, I climbed into the car, dropped the top, and began a quick series of errands. It was a beautiful day today and I enjoyed the running around. Still, it seemed to take longer than it should have. I finally found myself on the expressway moving toward St. Louis about 20 minutes later than I would have liked.

"God. Traffic isn't suppose to be this heavy this time of the morning. I need to see my friend, Phyllis, in the hospital and then leave there in time to see my friend Jeff in another hospital 20 minutes away before he goes into surgery. This traffic is making it tough. Please get me everywhere I need to be when I need to be there." The "Poplar Street Bridge" that spans the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis was just ridiculous. All I could do was pray to be in the correct lane and inch along. And then I got cut off by a semi and wasn't able to make my exit. AAAARRRGGGHHH. I took the next exit and wound through side roads and alleys that I had never been down before. St. Louis University Hospital loomed in the distance, it's big green roof serving as a beacon to guide me through the neighborhoods. I arrived an pulled into the parking garage, got my ticket from the printer, and ... there was an empty parking space. On the first floor. I've been coming to this hospital since 1983 and I have never parked on the first floor. Seriously. Not. One. Time. But I knew I was late. I went inside, got my visitors pass, signed in as clergy, got my parking validated and made my way up to room 721. As I walked I prayed. God, please. Order my steps. I need to be where you want me when you want me there. Help me not to blow this. The errands. The traffic. Getting cut off at my exit. I'm afraid I've really screwed this up.

I made the quick turn into the room Phyllis was in, nodded at her roommate, and stepped onto the other side of the curtain where she should be resting. I found her propped up in bed. Three doctors surrounded her. I heard one speak the word "cancer." That was why I was here. I knew that Phyllis was being told this morning that her surgery yesterday had found cancer. I wanted to be with her when she found out.

Phyllis was crying. The three doctors turned and looked at me. The one that looked like Doogie Houser asked me if I was family. I said, "I am her pastor." The woman doctor said, "Perfect timing" and the trio divided to allow me to step to Phyllises side. I have never seen doctors move so quickly or be more happy to do so. I took my friends hand in mine.

"Pastor, I have cancer again," she moaned. I told her that I knew and that we were going to do the same thing we did the last time she had cancer. We were going to kick its butt. I told her it wouldn't be fun but that hundreds of people were going to watch her do physical and spiritual warfare and that I and her church family would be beside her every step of the way. We prayed. The head doctor gave me his card and told me to call him if I had any questions. Phyllis does not have much family and I guess he wanted someone to have his contact number. Or maybe he had ordered too many business cards. Or maybe I was looking pale and he was trying to drum up business. After we had talked for about 10 minutes the doctors excused themselves and Phyllis and I spoke for nearly another hour. We prayed too. And we cried a little. And then I took my leave of her.

And as I left the room God whispered. He said, "You really are not able to screw up as much as you think you can, Ron. I am in control of errands, and traffic jams, and missed exits. You just keep asking me to guide your steps and I will. Stop worrying so much. If you give it your best shot and don't make it where you think you need to be it's because I didn't put you there. I am God. You are not."

And then ... then I think I heard Him laugh.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stupid Picture Chronicles #58

Ahhh. The old camouflage bikini trick ... I almost didn't see it... God bless Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary To Me

Happy anniversary to me. 10 years. Some anniversaries are to be celebrated with dinners out and gifts. Some are for simple, quiet, reflection. This one falls into the latter category.

It was February 2001 when, out of the blue, I got sick in a way I've never truly understood. Today, ten years afterward, I still have difficulty explaining what happened. The evil lasted from February 10 until September 8th. On that day it went away. It simply ... vanished. I don't know why. 211 days.

Life had been throwing fastballs at my head for a while. The world of teenagers in our community had been rocked multiple times. Suicides. Car accidents resulting in fatalities. An accident at a bus stop claiming a young life. A few severe child abuse situations. As one of the few youth pastors in the community it fell to me each time to minister to hurting families. I suppose that somehow in the midst of the chaos I forgot to deal with it all myself. Internally. I knew I was tired. I never knew that it was more than that. I worked out at least 5 days per week. I found great relief at the gym. A few miles running on a treadmill and nautilus weight machines helped burn the stresses and make them easier to forget. Or at least ignore. I wasn't looking in the rear view mirror of my own life to see if it was all catching up with me.

And then one morning I woke up and before I could even get out of bed I knew I was in trouble. The world was spinning. I guess it was like vertigo. That was not the worst part. There was pain. Deep internal pain. I couldn't point to anyplace and say, "It hurts here." It hurt everywhere. My body felt like it was turning inside out. And that first long day the pain and sense of detachment from reality lasted until about 6PM. Then it eased away and left me alone for the evening and all night. Unfortunately it came roaring back with a vengeance the next morning. It did that for 211 consecutive mornings.

Doctor's could not really figure it out. Everything checked out fine. God spoke though and told me clearly and in ways that I could not deny that I was not alright. He told me that I had lived myself into this mess. He told me that He was there. He told me that He would take care of me and walk me through the evil. And He did.

I could write a book about that year. The pain. The dizziness. The sadness. The desperation. The quiet and yet consistent "bread crumbs" that God left me to remind me that He was with me. Our church loved us through it. They gave me a nearly 3 month sabbatical. They sent my wife and I to a retreat for "hurting pastors" in Marble, Colorado. They flew us there, rented us a convertible Mustang, and picked up the tab for the whole thing. When I came back and stepped into the pulpit on my first Sunday they stood and applauded. I have never felt so loved. I will always have a deep gratitude to them for that.

Over the next 2 years I experienced a closer walk with God than I ever have in my entire life. He showed up so many times and in so many ways. I found myself in a love affair with my Savior. I miss those years. Such a gift.

Well, as often happens, the world blew apart again one day. This time it was not my fault. I just found myself locked in spiritual warfare the likes of which I had never previously experienced. Very unfortunate circumstances captured my attention every minute of every day for several years. I should never have allowed myself to get that deeply mired in emotional pain. I should have known better. But I was trying to follow Jesus as best I could. Honestly I was. I will go to my grave knowing that I was obedient. If I am wrong, He will tell me. But that is the only thing that will convince me that I had stepped out of line. Long before that battle ended I was sick again. Blessedly, the pain was absent but that was the only part of the old warfare that didn't return. I blame nobody but myself. Still, that doesn't mean I understand it. How can you follow God and wind up sick? I have no answer for that.

I am grateful that on this anniversary of "the lost year" I am living life on level ground once again. I celebrate the goodness of my God and I praise Him in the wake of the storm. I love what God is doing. I love how He loves me. I love how He has blessed me. I love Him.

I suppose I have made a lot of vague statements in this late night musing. Some things never need to be spoken of. Some truths don't need to be shared. It is enough to say that I am the only one who ever made myself go through these two seasons of sickness. And God is the only one to have brought me out of them. To reach the 10 year mark and not publicly proclaim His praises would be inexcusable. So let me just say it this way.

When you look at my life, anything good you see ... that is Jesus in me. Anything questionable or bad you see ... that is me. There it is. My life in two sentences.

Isaiah 41: 10 "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Monday, June 06, 2011

My Family

I would march into hell with a squirt gun for any one of these people.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Stupid Picture Chronicles #57

Courtesy of my friend, Dave Dugan. A lawyer. Go figure. :)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Stupid Picture Chronicles #56

Seriously? I'm betting they were on their way to Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I believe that the first person I met upon my arrival at Towerview Baptist Church (other than the pastor search committee) was Bill. Actually, if you do not count my wife, Bill is the first person I meet at church every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night. That is because he takes the responsibility of "Chief Greeter and All Around Nice Guy" very seriously. It is nearly impossible to enter the front doors of our church without being greeted by Bill and handed either a Sunday morning worship bulletin or a Wednesday evening prayer list. And they both come with a complimentary hand-shake.

You cannot help but love Bill.

Unfortunately, he has not been well for some time. The last year has not been good to him. Bill has been fighting a nasty battle with cancer. And if you look at things from a purely worldly standpoint, he is losing. Quickly. Like maybe this week.

Today I walked up to Bills front door and put out my hand to ring the doorbell. I had not visited with Bill since last Thursday. On that bright, sunny, tornado-less day (that matters around St. Louis this year) he was feeling quite well. I found him sitting in his recliner. His sister was visiting from the Lake of the Ozarks. We had a nice visit and I gave Bill a book. "One Minute After You Die." It was authored by Irwin Lutzer and I strongly recommend that you read it while you still have the chance. Then I shared a moment of prayer with my friend and excused myself to continue my day. But that was Thursday and this was Wednesday. Bill's health had plunged rapidly since that time. The end is drawing near. And I came to see if maybe he needed to talk. As I put my hand out, finger pointed toward the doorbell button, all of my physical and mental processes ground to a halt. I don't know how to explain it. I have paid many visits to many dying men and women over 3.5 decades of pastoring. But today, before I could push that button a thought rushed through my brain with all of the intensity of General Sherman's burning of Atlanta.

I was about to speak to a man who within a couple of days would very likely be speaking face to face with Jesus Christ. THE Jesus Christ. The creator and Lord of creation. The gentleman I was about to address, perhaps give advice to, certainly pray with, would listen to me today without a doubt. What I said he would take as the gospel truth. However, by the next time we have a Wednesday roll around every word I was about to speak would be proven true or false by almighty God Himself. I will be Bill's "under-shepherd" for a matter of a remaining few hours. And then he would report directly to The True Shepherd. The Alpha and Omega. He will be seeing the nail scars and the marks left from a crown of thorns. But right now he was my responsibility. And when he stops being my responsibility he will be the direct responsibility of ... The Son of God.

I cannot begin to tell you what that did to my heart. I realized in a very fresh and new way the gravity of the assignment that God has bestowed upon me. My greatest fear is to fail in that assignment. My greatest honor is in having it bestowed upon me in the first place. And tonight it feels like the weight of the universe is resting on my shoulders. It is the most intimidating thing I have ever felt.

I am not worthy.

And I cannot think of one other word to say.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Life On The Broken Planet

I remember April 22, 1967. I did not know it at the time but it was precisely 18 years to the day until my last child would be born. Nobody can look into the future and see something like that. I remember April 22, 1967 because on that day I was looking back about 18 hours. I was 11 years old and I was in a car with my pastor and other kids from the youth group I had just grown into. We were driving to downtown Chicago for a "Jesus Rally." I remember the rally, but again, that's not what is so memorable. On that beautiful Saturday morning we drove through the suburb of Oak Lawn, Illinois. The previous day it had been devastated by a monster tornado. These pictures <----- from Oak Lawn remind me of what we have been looking at all week in the unfortunate town of Joplin, Missouri. My juvenile brain went into overload as we drove through block after block after block of homes that looked as though they had been smashed by God's angry fist. I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around it. And I had a hard time understanding why the God I was on the way to worship at Chicago's Civic Center would allow that to happen. I still don't know the answer to that one.

A hospital full of sick and injured people got blown apart on Sunday night in Joplin. The current death toll stands around 124 in that city. And it is frightening to realize that roughly 1,500 people are still unaccounted for. No doubt most of them are with friends someplace and safe. But other people do not know that and so they found their way onto the list. There is also little doubt that many of the 1,500 are not at all safe. They really are missing. How can something blow the bark off of trees? How can a storm literally blow the pavement off of roads leaving only an ugly scar on the ground? How can a child be sucked out through the sunroof of his parents car? How can debris from the havoc the tornado creates soar 18,000 feet into the air? That is 3.4 miles UP. How can medical x-rays from the aforementioned hospital land in another city 70 miles away? I mean, what kind of force can do that?

I am afraid that I have more questions than I have answers. The older I get the more I realize that what I once accepted as acceptable reasons just doesn't really measure up. There are no answers available that make me go, "Oh. Okay. I get it now."

And so here is where I land. The planet we live on is broken. We broke it. It all started with an act that seemed tiny. The eating of fruit from a tree that God forbid a man and a woman to eat from. You can read about it in the book of Genesis. Chapter 3. So the guy and the girl break God's only rule. They decide to eat out one evening and make the unwise choice of restaurants. And thus we have the first "sin." It's just fruit, right? Hmmm. Do you know what the second recorded sin is? Murder. One young man killed his brother because of jealousy. From fruit to fight. From meal to murder. And the spiral continues on this very day. And the mayhem does not just effect people. It effects all of creation. It has resulted in earthquakes, tsunami's, hurricanes ... and tornadoes.

God help us.

But lest you think that is the end of the story, consider this. Do not for a minute think that we have been deserted and left alone on this spinning ball in space. God is still in charge. He paid the ultimate price to defeat the sin that so easily entangles us. He surrendered His Own Son to the powers of evil in order to buy us back. And because of that ... for those that believe ... everything ends WELL.

But for now we still live on the broken planet.

I pray though that you will find encouragement in these facts. God directs every lightening bolt. God counts every rain drop. God sees the impact of every hail stone. And not one single tornado will ever be spun out of a cloud without either God causing it, or at the very least, giving it permission. And now add this into the equation. He knows where you are. Every second of every day. People die under tragic circumstances. And yes, Christ followers sometimes get killed by tornadoes. We are not immune to the effects of the broken planet. Perhaps ... I'm not certain but just perhaps ... every time a lost person dies from tragic events God allows a Christ follower to die from tragic events also. Why? So the world will see the difference.

I sleep well regardless of the weather. Oh sure, I take precautions. I have a couple of flashlights. I have a sturdy and fairly safe basement. I have a battery operated weather radio. That is only smart. But the reason why I sleep well is because my Father watches over me. And someday He will call me home. If it's because I'm in a truly bad location when a tornado comes by ... well ... alright. I can think of better ways to go. But I'm His. I settled that long ago. And my earthly father taught me when I was a child that he would watch out for me and provide for me. My Father in heaven has done the same thing. So I think I"ll go to bed now. He's got His eye on me. It's on you too. And that gives me more rest than the best sleeping aid on the market.

Nighty night.