May 30, 2013

LOST: One Sheep

I was working in my garage on a Wednesday and heard a police siren; which isn’t too unusual until it was joined by another and then another and then another and then another and then what sounded like fire trucks and ambulances.

I thought it must be some sort of ‘manhunt’ because the streets that surround our house are residential and an accident wouldn’t require that many emergency vehicles.

A short time later, Cathy called me from her school and asked if I had heard the news that something tragic had taken place in the park by our house.

So I turned on the television to see a reporter informing the viewers that a fun-filled elementary school field trip to a park had become a tragedy as the rain-soaked Mississippi River bluff 30 to 40 feet high crumbled, creating a landslide killing one child, injuring two other children, and leaving another buried beneath the fallen hillside.  The steep slope had been saturated with rain in recent days causing the rescue to be at times almost impossible.

In an effort to get to the children, rescue workers knocked on the doors of surrounding houses to plead for more shovels. For two days, helicopters filled the air…they became a constant reminder to keep praying as the rescue workers made their way through the waist high mud.

I cannot imagine the pain felt by all of those involved from the school, the families, and the rescue workers who searched for almost twenty four hours until on Thursday they eventually found the missing child; who was unfortunately dead.

Wednesday evening, we had some people over to our house for our weekly Bible study; which had been rescheduled from Thursday. The passage already picked out to study was The Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15 which is:

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7 NKJV)  

As we discussed this passage, pondering just how much God searches for us when we are lost, the noise from the helicopters filled the air outside of our house once again reminding us that a desperate search was still under way for one individual who was lost.

We dialoged at how much money and time and effort was placed upon this situation. It didn’t matter whether there was money in the City of St. Paul West. St. Paul, Mendota Heights, Minneapolis, and the surrounding communities that sent over rescue personal and equipment. Seemingly nothing was too great of a price to pay to try and rescue this lost child.

Our conversation went back and forth between the rescue efforts that were taking outside in our neighborhood and contrasting it to the passage we were reading in Luke 15. All of this brought new revelation into the expense that was paid to rescue each one of us. 

Jesus Christ paid a great price to rescue us; He spared no expense. Your rescue and mine cost Him His life.  

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."






May 23, 2013

Everything Escalated From There

In the Twin Cities, there is a classic television station that shows all of the old shows that I loved to watch as a child back in the sixties. The format presents a wide variety of the iconic series, stars and genres that have defined pop culture and television for decades. Shows like “Leave it to Beaver”, “My Three Sons”, “Adam-12”, “The Odd Couple”, and “Dragnet”, and the list goes on…

One of the shows, “I Love Lucy” showed Lucy and her friend Ethel working on an assembly line. Do you know the one that I am referring to? Lucy is working on an assembly line wrapping candy.
They start off with the assembly line running slow and are quite impressed with their ability to keep up. But, when the lines starts running faster and the candy comes out quicker and they can no longer keep up with wrapping the candy, panic sets in and everything escalates from there.
The two of them try to mask the fact that they are way over their heads by doing things like eating the candies, hiding them in their hats, and dropping them down their dresses; anything to hide them from their overbearing boss. And, no matter what they do, it continues to escalate as they hope that no one knows that they are unable to keep up and handle what they were given to do.

We, the viewers, watch the show as we laugh and ask; “Why don’t they just stop and admit that they can’t handle it. Why don’t they shut off the conveyer belt? Why don’t they ask for help?” We ask this because if we were them we would’ve done something different. Or would we?

So how does it work for you? Are you a person who, when you get out of the rhythm and life and you can’t keep up, do you stop and admit that you can’t handle it? Do you ask for help? Or do you keep going hoping that no one knows that you are unable to keep up and handle what you are trying to do?

At first you, like Lucy and Ethel, perhaps can handle the tasks and so it doesn’t faze you that things could ever get to the point where you might need help. After all, someone might think that you are incompetent and get someone else in to replace you.

So, rather than stopping, you work harder trying to keep up. And then everything escalates from there.

If this is the condition of your life today; may I make a suggestion? “STOP” In the Bible we read the Lord calling out to each of us who are in this condition;

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” (Psalm 46:10 MSG)

Listen to Jesus calling out to you as the conveyer belt speeds up in your life:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

My friend, living in a life of stress and panic and things out of control is not how God wants us to live.  And you don’t need to; you really can stop. And you don’t need to wait until everything has escalated.

God cares for you more than you will ever know. It is often in our problems that we see who God really is; a loving, caring Father who longs to help us.

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

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


May 16, 2013

Judging in the Fast Lane

I was on my way home from a very busy day. I was alone in my car as I collected my thoughts from the day. It had been one of those days in my life that started way too early and was way too full; and wasn’t going to end until late into the night.  

I needed the drive time home to rest my mind and start re-entry into my home life as I awaited my turn to get on the entrance ramp to the freeway ramp. I was looking forward to a meal with Cathy before I went to my next meeting.

As I approached the freeway, I noticed that cars were already at a standstill as each made their way to their destinations; all the while making an oxymoron out of the word “rush hour”.

As my pickup truck crawled up the ramp I watched each of the cars take their turn as directed by the two sets of stop and go lights. To my right was the coveted “HOV bypass Lane”, the one in which carpools and buses can bypass areas of regular congestion. In this case vehicles in that lane didn’t need to wait for the stop and go lights. The only requirement is that you need to have at least two people in the vehicle, and then you, too, can drive in the fast lane.

While waiting my turn at the lights, I noticed a vehicle make a furtive move with his car and move across two lanes and get into this HOV lane. The problem was that he was the only person in his vehicle. 
My mind raced as my light turned green and I sped up to the freeway driving directly behind this person. All sorts of self righteousness entertained me as I wished that somehow justice would be served to this man who, in my opinion, blatantly violated the purpose of the HOV lane.

I thought to myself; “Hey, where is a law enforcement person when you need one?” wishing that I had some sort of “tin badge” so that I could… as I noticed that he was going to be taking the same exit that I was also going to take.

Quickly, my mind went another direction thinking who was I to judge him? I thought of the times that I was glad that there hadn’t been a law enforcement person as I rolled through a stop sign or drove slightly over the posted speed limit. I thought of the passage from Matthew 7:1-5. I like how Eugene Peterson translates it;

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (MSG)

But, I thought, although I was grateful for mercy, we weren’t talking about me; ahead of me was the person who had just violated of the law by driving in the fast lane!

When we both came to another stoplight at the top of the next ramp, I noticed the man turn and reach over into the back of his car and pick up something. When he turned back to grab the steering wheel, I noticed something else. Two small hands reached up from the rear seat and held the item that man had picked up from the rear seat of his car.

I had wrongly misjudged the situation and declared this man guilty of a crime that he had not committed. There had always been (at least) two people in the car the whole time! The man had every right to drive in the HOV bypass lane -and he didn’t need my permission to do so!

My heart sank as I prayed for forgiveness; I had judged this man for driving in the fast lane! I also prayed a blessing on the man in the car ahead of me as the lights turned green and each of us once again started on the drive home.

I write this because I just finished teaching a class on “The Character of Leadership”; which focused on areas leaders face such as integrity, sincerity, honesty, and the perils of power.

I thought of the passage from the Bible that says;
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1 NKJV).

The ‘stricter judgment’ was ringing in my ears as I listened to what I had been teaching in light of what had just taken place. As I told my students; “The real test for this class will take place outside of the four walls of this classroom.”

And I thanked God for His mercy and that I hadn’t had a “tin badge” (which I wouldn’t have flashed, although sometimes I think that all of us wished that we could…). We all would better if we would learn to not judge in the fast lanes of our lives.

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson



May 9, 2013


“The paper called it suicide. A bullet from a forty-five. Nobody cared and nobody cried. Don't that make you feel sad?” - “Suicide”  Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group. written by Philip Parris Lynott

I don’t know who I am writing this for; or why you are reading this. Perhaps you, too are …considering…thinking about… but, Please don’t kill yourself!

I thought of you as I drove by the bridge today. I saw the memorial and I knew what it meant. It had been placed there by someone who deeply loved the person who had taken their own life. I thought of the time when a police chaplain told me that he had to deal with two who had taken their lives at that same spot at different times on the same day. I asked him how he dealt with it. He told me that "you just do; you get used to it". I told him that I never want to get used to it.

I thought of you as I drove by the park today. I saw the memorial and I knew what it meant. I had been there when the police arrived and knew what their arrival had meant. It was confirmed when I read the article in the paper the next day. One of the persons who witnessed the death said, when interviewed; “I wish I'd never seen that…” Please don’t kill yourself!

As I drove by I also thought of several friends of mine whose answer to their pain was taking their own lives. I still think of them occasionally and feel the loss.

I know that right now all you might be feeling is that nobody knows or even cares or will even miss you, but they, we, and I do; even though we don’t know you at this moment. Everywhere I drive I see make-shift memorials on the spots where people kill themselves. We read the articles in the paper and we grieve and we will grieve if you go through with it. So, Please don’t kill yourself!

Your death (not your life or even you) will be forever branded upon the eyes of those who come alongside of what you do next. It is your family who will wonder what else could have been done, even though right now it may seem to you as though they don’t care. And even if they don’t care, I DO! That is why I am pleading with you; Please don’t kill yourself!

Please take the advice of one who has lost several friends to suicide; the pain we feel after you are gone is so much greater than anything you are going through right now. They may have thought it ended the pain; but for the rest of us it still continues over thirty years later as I ponder what could have been done to stop them.

One of them told me five minutes before he killed himself that ‘everything was great’ and that he was ‘fine’. Another told me that he’d rather stay at home than to hang with all of us friends. He said that he was tired and needed to get some sleep. They were two of seven friends who left my world through suicide.

It is the police, fire, and medical personnel. They are the ones who have to “clean up the mess” and go on with their lives as forever they will be haunted by what they saw. I’ve spoken with them; they really wished that those whom they had to “clean up” would have at least given them a call so that, perhaps, they could have gotten the help that was needed. Now, instead, many lives are hurt.

Every year more than 800,000 people in the United States try to kill themselves. That translates into one suicide attempt every 39 seconds. Worldwide, more than a million people kill themselves annually. And my guess is that not one of them truly found the peace that they were really looking and longing for. Please don’t kill yourself!


I know that you may feel worthless at this moment and really need some encouragement and hope in your life. I know that nothing seems to be going right for you and you conclude that you need to quit. But don’t quit before God is done with your situation. He really can fix anything!

I know that right now all you might be feeling is sadness and you don’t see any way out of your current situation. I really do know; I, too, have been there at a couple different times in at life. I know what it is like to struggle with wanting to end the anguish NOW and feeling that there is no hope. But there is HOPE that things can change. They really can get better; I promise you.

Please don’t kill yourself! Hang in there so you don’t miss out on what God has planned for you. God’s best is yet to come!

Have you had enough of what this world has to offer and want true freedom? Call 1-888-NEED HIM. Someone is waiting to talk with you


May 2, 2013


Vain: without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless…

I am always amazed when I hear of a man “complaining” that his wife wants him to accompany her to a mall and that he doesn’t want to go with her; especially to “window-shop”. I admit it; I love window-shopping and am very happy to accompany Cathy on trips to go window-shopping. No, not for windows that one would place in a house; but to look at articles in the windows of stores without making any purchases.

I am pretty happy with what I have in life and I am not really looking for any particular material possession; thinking; “I must have this or that…” in order to be fulfilled…except I could always ‘use’ another hockey puck for my collection....

Sure, there are things that catch my eye and spark my interests; sports, art, gardening, tools, and even clothing and shoes. I especially am fond of stores that carry antiques and unusual items.

So, if I was to feel the need to covet anything (besides another hockey puck) it would be for an old weathervane to either install on the top of my garage or hang in my house. I know that I have the skills to make one, but there is something about one that is well worn and weathered.

A weathervane is a revolving pointer typically mounted on top of a building. Its main purpose is to show the direction of the wind. Weather vanes come in various designs and sizes and have been used since ancient times. Some are equipped with ‘directionals’ or ‘pointers’ calibrated to point to true north.

BUT, because not all weather vanes have pointers, some of them are little more than decorations that move with every shifting wind; providing no clear direction for anyone. To get real direction one would use a compass, not a weathervane.

A compass, on the other hand, is an instrument for determining directions by means of a freely rotating magnetized needle that indicates magnetic north. If it is working, it ALWAYS
points to the true north and doesn’t move with every shifting wind.

Can you imagine if we used weathervanes as instruments for travel (like you would use MapQuest); especially ones that had no pointers calibrated to point to true north?

Listen, if your goal is to get to Dallas, Texas and you are traveling North on Interstate 35E looking at a weathervane telling you that all is right; you’re still wrong!

And, it really doesn’t matter whether you are going seventy or forty miles per hour or whether you are driving a car or a truck; you are going the wrong direction and will never reach your destination. You need to go another direction.

What do you look at to determine what is happening in this world; a weathervane or a compass? Do you look to someone or something that moves with every shifting wind; perhaps not even pointing to what really is north?

Remember, weathervanes not calibrated to true North are merely decorations; and I would say the same is true of people who have no calibration; they are mere decorations that move with every shifting wind; “weather-vains”.

So, is there really someone or something that can point you in the right direction? Is there someone or something that is so calibrated that you can put your confidence in?
For me, Jesus is the only One who fits this description. He ALONE is The One who always points us to “true north”. Jesus is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. He said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:5-6). It is to Him I look to find my TRUE direction in my life. I find it in His Word, the Bible. His WORD is “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105)

We need to read the Bible so that we are “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14)

And so that we can “Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

Be careful that what you are following isn’t merely decoration; a weather-vain” Watch out; you may be standing on shaky ground.

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."