Oct 29, 2010

Quiver Full

Last Saturday, Cathy and I welcomed into our family another daughter-in-law. My youngest son Josh got married to the love of his life; Jen, or “Jennie O” as she has started referring to herself now that her last name starts with an “O”. I heard a rumor that she is planning on talking to the Jennie O Turkey Company hoping to work out some sort of a deal for Thanksgiving.

Josh and Jen met when they both attended and graduated from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What a great time we had as family and friends joined us over two days in the celebration of this new union. So many people were willing to travel to a wedding far from home to stand alongside this young couple as they pledged their vows together before God. One woman traveled from as far away as Mexico. What a joy it is to have friends and family!

Once again I had the tremendous privilege and blessing of being both a dad and a minister (the one who married them) to a couple starting out on the great adventure known as “marriage”.

I say privilege because it is something that I realize is a gift, not a right. Earlier in the month I attended a wedding at which, for whatever reason, the mother of one of the persons getting married was intentionally not invited.

I say blessing because Psalm 127:4-5 says; “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them…” We now have 6 adult children, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, and a grandchild on the way! So, Cathy and I clearly have our “quiver full”.

As we drove home after being gone for a couple days, Cathy and I pondered just how good God has been to us in giving us such great children; not perfect, but great none the less. And I realized that God has provided such great marriage partners for our children who are married (and friends to those who are not). I have a quiver full of life and hope in the form of young adults who really make this world a better place because they are in it.

We are so grateful for the many people whom God has used to help shape and form our children. Friends and loved ones who have stood alongside all of us as we have gone through this life since the day Cathy and I said “I do” to each other so many years ago.

So today I write this blog and ponder how good it is that I have a quiver full. Trials, yes, but through it all God has been good to us.

God has been good to us; not because we deserved it; because we don’t. Simply put, God has chosen to bless us and for that I am grateful. Our married life hasn’t always been easy, nor has it been without heartaches and trials. The Bible tells us that Jesus said; “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

God has chosen, by His grace to be good to me. And for that I am grateful and my tears well up with thankfulness.

Under the Grace by Phil Keaggy
I lie awake in the middle of the night again
I try to make some sense of it all rushing in
There's so much I feel within this heart of mine
I well up inside and my eyes, they overflow
For I know, it is grace

The look of love in the shape of your face I have known
It speaks of this deep sacrifice you have shown
And the wonder of it all is, I didn't deserve this
I couldn't have planned it so right
And so my eyes, they overflow
Let it rain, let it pour, let it go
For I know this, yes I know - it is grace

And the hungry in heart seeks for its place and a home
But it may tear you apart when you see
What this grace here has done
Fly, fly all you burdens - go fly away
It's here I remain - under the grace

It seems there's so little time to make amends here
If not for you, will then I'm without a friend here
©1998 Word Music/Sebastian/ASCAP

Oct 22, 2010

10 Things

I share this article today that is written by someone else just because I like hockey and I have some friends and family who like it as well. Both of my boys play and my wife and the girls like to go to hockey games. And, I share it for those who don't like hockey and don't understand our peculiarities.

The Apostle Peter wrote: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9). King James Version uses the phrase a “peculiar” people; that means we are different from the “world”.

After reading this article, perhaps you take time to laugh today; and that you will better understand those who are in your life who like hockey; your “peculiar” friends.
After reading this, I hope you better understand the strange oddities of this game, except, perhaps, Don Cherry's suits; I think that you have to be from Canada to understand Don Cherry or his suits. My friends to the North, I'm just kidding; we love him too. (Check out Don's suits: http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&source=imghp&biw=1362&bih=551&q=don+cherry+suits&gbv=2&aq=1&aqi=g10&aql=&oq=don+cherry&gs_rfai= )

By William Stephen Cross

Ever get tired of explaining hockey to your mom, your friends, your girlfriend, boyfriend, and your wife? (Husbands may just understand a little better because they probably played a team sport or two.) There are things in life that no one else is ever going to get. And some things are simply better left unexplained. Because explaining them only makes them sound even goofier. But here’s my feeble attempt.

GETTING UP TO PLAY AT 6 AM - Parents who hear about my waking up my son for 6 a.m. games look at me like I’ve just announced my intentions of running for emperor of Siam. Why is it I’ll get up before dawn on Sunday, but I can’t seem to answer the alarm clock Monday through Friday? Why is it I cant get my son out of bed for school, but he’s instantly awake when I whisper in his ear its time to play hockey, grinning like a two-time lottery winner. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Of course, Nietzsche ended up as crazy as a goalie who has taken too many shots to the melon, tied up in a straight jacket inside an insane asylum.

PLAYING AFTER MIDNIGHT - Friday nights are date night, yet the rinks always full for the Friday Night Classic: 90 minutes of open hockey for $15. Who in their right mind would do such a thing? Did you hear there’s some ice Tuesdays at 11 p.m.? And what about Thursdays after the high school practices? And Sunday at 5:30 a.m.?

$100 FOR TAPE - I know, it sounds like a lot of money, but the clear tape for wrapping shin pads is $3 a roll in the store, and World Athletic Tapes Limited in New Hampshire has the same tape for $1.67 if you order a half case. Then there’s the white cloth tape that’s $3 a roll for taping my skates. And the red tape I wrap around the stick handle, that was only $1.45, or the black friction tape for $1.80 ($1.69 if you order a whole case). So it would’ve been crazy not to buy the tape in bulk, right? Honey?

$450 FOR NIKE SKATES - Didn’t you just buy those Bauer 5000s? Didn’t you say they fit like a glove? The Bauers are almost $100 cheaper. Who in their right mind would pay that much for skates? Why would anyone want the same equipment Sergei Federov uses? Nobody. The same nobodies who don’t wear the identical brand of goalie pads as Patrick Roy or use the same stick as Brett Hull. It won’t sell, so you wonder why the sporting goods companies would even try it.

NEVER WASHING YOUR GEAR - Guys who spend freely to buy aftershave and cologne will leave their hockey gear in the bag between games, and never, ever wash it. The odor can be detected by flies at 10,000 yards, and usually not even the barbs of teammates will persuade the offender to clean up his act (one really nice guy on one of my teams got tagged Stinky). What’s the deal here? Is this there some protective quality to the odor, as if pucks would bounce off the smell? Does it distract goalies the way having a 250 pound winger in front of them does? If it will distract him enough to miss that fluttering shot from the blue line, then Ill never wash my gear again.

TAPE AGAIN! - I was coming back from a trip to Canada and the customs agent asked if I had anything to declare. Just some tape, I replied nonchalantly. Tape? he asked. Would you please open your bag. So I did, and there were 25 rolls of clear hockey tape. The pro shop in Guelph had ordered too much and they were less than $2 a roll, so I stocked up. Why so much tape? the customs agent asked. I play hockey, I use it to tape my socks. He just looked at me, and then waved for me to pack up and go without saying a word.

HOCKEY CAMP - Its summer, the weathers warm, the beach full of pretty bodies in brief attire. So where are the hockey players? In damp rinks reeking of mildew, enduring butterfly drills that have nothing to do with that most exquisite creature, doubling over in pain and oxygen-deprivation, and in general, unable to get enough. Of course, some fathers can go too far. There was one who smiled approvingly when he asked his son what was fun at camp that day and the exhausted, dejected boy answered nothing. And then, there are the other fathers who were at hockey camp, too, skating til they puke.

24-7 - A friends kid is playing in two house leagues and for his private schools junior varsity. When his mom worried that was too much hockey, the boy smiled and told her I LOVE hockey. 24-7, Mom. Most people who hear 24-7 think it’s a score (Ron Hextall must’ve been in goal for the losing team). Hockey people know what the boy means (OK, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for you civilians reading this article). Of course, he’s a teenager. For kids under 12, any parent who lets them play organized hockey more than four days a week ought to have their license taken away. Pond hockey’s another matter, or backyard pick-up games . . . .

NOT WEARING FACE PROTECTION - Kind of like not wearing a seat belt so you can be thrown clear from the accident (thrown clear, all right clear into intensive care). Only a hockey player would value seeing the puck better over keeping his teeth. Dentures aren’t the only danger; two years ago a puck hit me in the orbit, the bone that surrounds the eye. No permanent damage done, thanks to $5,000 paid to that plastic surgeon. Paid on the installment plan, just like a car (I call the scar my Porsche).

A GREAT GAME - I’m talking the kind of game where you don’t see the puck until its already in the net, where a the game ends 2-1, where the off-sides rule is too complicated, where the color commentators (because they’re Canadian) speak with an accent only dogs and NASA deep space listening devices can understand, and where the players fight. Give me a break from the knocks civilians hand our sport: Who reading this doesn’t understand the off-sides rule (you want complicated? Try soccer’s off-side rule), is turned off by the fighting (you want to see fighting? Things are positively peaceful nowadays. I remember the Broad Street Bullies when Bob Clarke was Bobby Clarke, one of the dirtiest players in the game as well as one of the most successful), or likes games with scores borrowed from baseball (the Red Wings won last nights game with the Dallas Stars when winger Sergei Federov launched an Ed Belfour 0-2 fastball over the fence with two men on in the bottom of the ninth for a final score of 8-7)?...

This first appeared in the Feb. 1998 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

Oct 15, 2010

How do you add a semicolon to a song?

I was talking about the song “Just The Way I Am” (by Big Daddy Weave) at our Home Bible Study last week. The song is upbeat, catchy, and tells of the unconditional love of God. I mentioned that although I liked the song, I felt that it was missing a “semicolon”.

“How do you add a semicolon to a song?” was the question I was asked by someone.

I wasn’t totally sure what she was asking partially because occupationally she worked for a gastroenterologist (someone who specializes in the branch of medicine whereby the digestive system and its disorders are studied and treated). That wasn’t the “colon” I was thinking of.

The colon I was thinking of is a punctuation mark consisting of two equally sized dots centered on the same vertical line. A colon informs the reader that the following proves or explains or simply provides elements of what is referred to before. Oftentimes a colon is used before a list or an explanation that is preceded by a clause that can stand by itself. The colon is like a gate, inviting the reader to continue on.

The song; “Just The Way I Am” by Big Daddy Weave, makes some bold statements about the unconditional love of God. The songs states; “You Love me just the way I am… Not when I'm good enough. Not when I clean my act up. Not when I cross the line the thousandth time. And become a better man. Your grace is more than enough. To cover all my sins, Lord wash them away. So right here today, You love me just the way I am”.

And, I like those words. They are a great reminder of the grace and mercy of God towards mankind. It was this same grace and mercy that caused God to send Jesus. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

My concern was that people would misunderstand that when the song tells us that God loves us “just the way we are”; that somehow He accepts or approves of whatever we do. My “semicolon” would be to add what Jesus said to the adulterous woman who was brought before Him; “And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

Stating; “You love me just the way I am” is not saying that God doesn’t require change; in fact it is through His power that we change. A line in the song says; “Ever patiently accepting me You love in spite of everything I do But oh so faithfully You're committed to the process that makes me like You”. Did you catch that? God wants to CHANGE us in order to make us more like Him. And, God tends to get what He wants.

GOD IS LOVE AND HE THINKS THE BEST OF US, BUT HE HATES SIN. “Sin” is ANYTHING that separates us from God and God will do WHATEVER it takes to remove it from our lives IF we let Him. Just because He loves us doesn’t mean that we can legislate our sins away.

We all know John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 

But the passage goes on to say; "17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." God loves us AND we need to respond to that love.

One of the best pictures of God’s love for sinners is when Jesus said; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34) What a Picture!

So my question to you is; “If Jesus presented Himself to you today, are you willing; willing to let Jesus gather you to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks?” You can; it’s up to you. Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks; and waits. Until we open up and let Him in.

Maybe along the way you’ve forgotten God; He hasn’t forgotten you. Call out to Him, won’t you? God still wants you to come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. 

Call 1-888-NEED HIM. Someone is waiting to talk with you right now.

“Just The Way I Am” lyrics by Mike Weaver (Big Daddy Weave) Album: "What I Was Made For"

Unbelievable, I’m blown away it’s true
By the matchless love that I’ve found in You
Undeniable, the change in me
I’ve never felt so free

It makes me want to dance
You make me want to dance
When I think about how

You love me, You love me
You love me just the way I am
You love me, You love me
You love me just the way,
Just the way I am

Ever patiently accepting me
You love in spite of everything I do
But oh so faithfully
You’re committed to the process that makes me like You
And I feel like I can dance
Oh You make me want to dance
When I think about how

Not when I’m good enough
Not when I clean my act up
Not when I cross that line the thousandth time
And become a better man
Your grace is more than enough
To cover all my sins You washed them away
So right here today
You love me just the way I am

© 2005 Fervent / Spirit-Led

Oct 8, 2010

The Mayor Can Wait

My daughter Rachel is turning 19 this month; she was born the last time that the Minnesota Twins won the World Series. Years ago, her life intersected with mine in a way that caused me to rethink my priorities.

When Rachel was four years old, my wife Cathy said to me; “Honey, Rachel wants me to get you to sleep in tomorrow.” My response to Cathy, as we were drifting off to sleep, was “I can’t; tomorrow is the day when us pastors are getting together with the mayor; this is an important meeting.”

For almost one year, the pastors of the Twin Cities had been coming together to pray for each other as well as to seek God for ways to partner together for city wide events. We had invited civic leaders like mayors, council members, and even the governor to join us for prayer only to have them decline our invitation.

But tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow, the mayor of one of the cities where I gathered weekly with other pastors would be joining us for prayer. We had invited the mayor of this particular city to come and share with us what were the toughest challenges that the city was facing, so that together we could pray to the Lord on behalf of the mayor and the city. Our desire was to “pray for all those in authority” as we are instructed in 1st Timothy 2 verse 1-8.

When I was a young father and minister I had struggled between time with my family and ministry. I am one who would encourage other men to put family and our wives first; yet at times stand a crossroad of choice as to what will really get my time and attention. It was not always clear for me to see ministering to my wife and children as “ministering for God”. I had to learn to see that my wife and my family were truly my first priority in ministry.

Cathy went on to explain to me what Rachel had planned for me instead for the following morning. Rachel had seen a picture in a magazine of a young girl bringing breakfast in bed to her father. Rachel had planned TOMORROW as the day when she wanted to do this for me.

“The mayor can wait”, I told Cathy as I realized that to let Rachel serve me breakfast and be a good dad to her would actually be the higher calling that God had given to me for tomorrow; not meeting with the mayor. I was convicted that my daughter Rachel had to take priority to the mayor; especially because Rachel was now asleep perhaps dreaming of how the breakfast would turn out, and it would be at least another week before my schedule would allow me to set aside time for one of my children to simply bless me. Do you see why we need our wives?

I woke up the next morning to my daughter Rachel (four years old) gently calling to me at my bedside. I turned to her and saw the joyful expectancy on her face as she anticipated my reaction to her thoughtfully planned surprise. Rachel told me how she had planned the whole breakfast the day before, including what dishes to use and what dress she would wear. I thanked her and ate the precious gift that she had prepared so lovingly for me.

Later, when I was alone, I realized how easily I could have blown it if Cathy not told me of Rachel’s plans and if God had not spoken to my heart. What a wonderful gift God gave us in the Holy Spirit. How good it is that He wants to lead and guide us and direct our lives in every area.
I was convicted that I needed to allow the Holy Spirit to clearly direct all of my decisions; especially when I was at a cross road of choice, having to choose one over the other.

I knew that the following week when I attended the weekly pastor’s prayer gathering, I would hear of how the time with the mayor went for those who were able to attend. And, I knew that inside, perhaps, I still would have wished that I could have been at both places. But I knew that God had called me to be in the presence of a four year old who wanted to do something special for her daddy. The pastors could wait; the mayor could wait; but my daughter couldn’t.

Oct 1, 2010

Beautiful Bodies

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
And eyes, and ears, and mouth, and nose. 
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

We have had a lot of rain this past summer in Minnesota; some of our storms averaged 3-4 inches per storm. This past week parts of the State of Minnesota were flooded under 14 inch rainstorms. Friends of mine who are pastors have sent emails to me with photos showing the destruction caused by flooding during the monsoon season in their country of India.

With all of this water in the world, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the value of it. But experts say that water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90 percent of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60 percent of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70 percent water, blood is 82 percent water, and the lungs are nearly 90 percent water.

But we humans are much more than just water; we are created in the image and likeness of God, living in beautiful bodies that are very complex “machinery” that we can easily take for granted; that is until our beautiful bodies have problems.

I needed to stop lifting weights (this year from Spring until this November) so that a very old injury to one of my shoulders could finally heal. As a person who likes to work out and stay in shape, the potential for whining is there when I need to not exercise and let my body rest. It’s easy to complain when things don’t work right; especially when we no longer have some parts that function as we wished that they would. To guard against “pouting”, I instead have come to appreciate what does work in my body and what I am able use it for.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
And eyes, and ears, and mouth, and nose.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

I’m not talking about just the big things, but the little things as well. Perhaps some of this week’s reflections come from having friends whose bodies don’t work as well as they would like them to. We can easily take our beautiful bodies for granted when they are working properly.; after all they are "only water".

What about our five senses: Hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting. Have you thanked God today that you can taste, touch, see, hear, and smell?

What about our major organs: skin, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, bladder, intestines, reproductive, gall bladder, and pancreas. All things that we can easily take for granted when they are working properly. Have you thanked God today for your major organs?

What about our major systems; again, we can easily take them for granted when they are working properly: Organ, Skeletal, Muscular, Circulatory, Nervous, Respiratory, Digestive, Excretory, Endocrine, Lymphatic/Immune, Reproductive, Dermis, and Epidermis. Have you thanked God today for your major systems?

What about our heads, shoulders, knees, and toes and eyes and ears and mouth and nose? Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

I have several friends who are in wheelchairs for multiple reasons; some due to accidents caused by other people, as well as some who were born with parts of their bodies that don’t allow them to be as mobile as they would love to be.

I have several friends whose bodies in which simple things like a bladder or bowels (or short-term memory) no longer work and they are dependent on man-made systems to do what you and I do every day without even thinking about it. Seriously, we need to thank God that our systems work each and every time that we use the bathroom.

I have several friends who have fought and beaten cancer in their own lives (minus a few parts of their bodies) and the lives of their children and still continue to keep going forward; praising God for each step of the way.

I have a friend who was recently rejoicing that he; after MULTIPLE surgeries, is finally able to once again talk and breathe at the same time (following an accident caused by an inattentive driver). I watch as he constantly shifts to fit a “comfortable” place in his wheelchair where his shattered body won’t hurt. I listen to his and his wife’s words of thanksgiving to the Lord for what he does have.

I have another friend who after a long battle with an illness went on the longest walk he's taken; to the park and back. This friend was always a very active man who loved to work with his hands, fish, canoe, hike in the mountains; generally to be outdoors. This past week he was finally able to swallow again after months of not being able to even eat food “normally”. His youngest daughter writes;

“GREAT NEWS! Dad took his swallow test this afternoon and ready... HE PASSED! This is very exciting and a great step in the right direction. He is cleared to eat pureed foods, liquids, soft foods, smoothies, and things like that. WHOA! We're excited!!! He will continue on the feeding tube until he meets with his nutritionist to make sure he is still gaining weight and receiving the right nutrients each day. More to come on that; I am just really excited about this news and wanted to pass it on to you for today. Thanks for praying. God is good! Wow!”

I watch these friends of mine, and I listen to them; both in conversation and how they pray and worship God. I have been moved to tears as I watch them use what they have; all of their strength to say; “Thank you Father for giving me life today!” I have moved to my knees as I watch them worship God with their hands, fingers, knees, toes, eyes, ears and mouths (and nose?).

God has made us complex and beautiful and we need to be grateful for whatever shape or condition that we find ourselves in today. Let’s make a commitment to thank God moment by moment whenever we realize what DOES work in our bodies.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
And eyes, and ears, and mouth, and nose.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Psalm 139:14 "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well."

Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."