Jun 27, 2013

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where I live, they have been installing “light-rail” as the newest form of public transportation and it is scheduled to open next year. Many people are excited to take the new shiny train and leave their cars at home.

Other people are not so excited for many reasons (besides the cost). One of the reasons is because they know the bad thing about trains, cars, trucks, vans, and other modes of transportation is that they eventually break down and need to be replaced.

I write this because Cathy and I have never had to take out a loan for a vehicle; either we paid cash or else someone gave us a vehicle as a gift. We’ve been given many vehicles over our marriage from cars, to vans, to SUV’s. And, this provision extended not only to Cathy and I but to several of our children as well when they were older and in need of their own vehicle.

Each and every time that we needed a different vehicle, usually because we had another child, the Lord provided a new one. Usually when we needed a different vehicle Cathy would pray that the Lord would provide one to not only meet our family’s needs but also she asked for extra room so that we could give rides when the need arose. Each and every time the Lord provided. 

One such provision took place in 1986. A man came up to me after church and he looked a little miffed. He pulled me aside so that he could rebuke me with what little authority he (thought) that he had. Cathy and I had been married several years and we were going through a time of unemployment. He was upset with me that we had received some money from the church’s benevolent fund. To this day I still am not sure how he had this information, but today it would prove to serve me well.

Not working had been rough on me; the whole economy was going through great turbulence. We had been getting hand outs and hand me downs and my pride was bruised; even the car we were driving had been given to us by someone who figured that we needed it.

He continued with his complaint to me that we should not have taken the money that the church had given us. He pointed out that he noticed that we were driving a new car and that my children were wearing “designer” clothes. Then, to top it off, he blasted me that my wife was spending too much money on her clothes and shared with me that for the past few weeks he noticed how expensive the clothes that she wore were. In fact, he said, the outfit she had on cost at least five hundred dollars.

What he didn’t know is that the car was a gift that only looked new because the previous owner who gave it to us as a gift kept it good condition. I had been so embarrassed that the clothes my children wore were donated to us by one of Cathy’s relatives (hand-me-downs) that I hadn’t even noticed that not only did they look new, but that they were designer labeled! And the outfits that Cathy wore were hand-me-downs from one of Cathy’s aunts. I had no idea that they were expensive; I only saw them as used clothing.

Wow; that was all that I needed! I was so grateful that Cathy had relatives with money, good taste, and generosity! I thanked him, got in my car, and drove away feeling like a million bucks! God had not only met our needs for clothing, but He had also met the need for me to not be embarrassed by what we had.

Jesus said;

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:27-31)

Praise be His name!

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





Jun 20, 2013

Risk Your Heart

I didn’t let my children have a dog(s) when they were growing up at home. I had many reasons why they couldn’t have a dog; some who know me would say a “never-ending” list of reasons “why you should to never own a dog”

So, after each of my children moved out and bought a house, they got a dog that they consider to be part of the family. In fact several of my children have referred to them as the “grand-puppies” and wondered why they are not included in the photographs of the ‘other’ grandchildren.

Some of the reasons that I told my children why you should to never own a dog (in no particular order):

·        They make a mess, messes, and are messy.

·        They chew on things.

·        They leave droppings on the grass –I had watched my neighbor clean up after his children’s dog and I didn’t want to end up with that chore!

·        They bark and make noise.

·        They smell and leave hair everywhere.

·        You have to give them a bath; only to have them go out and get dirty again!

·        They bite! They can be vicious!

·        You need to get someone to take them outside for walks and “to do their duty” when you go away on vacation (Cats, on the other hand, require no work to maintain and are actually quite happy that you are going away!)

And the list goes on…and on…and on…

Including the real reason that I didn’t want my children to own a dog is because dogs die; and I didn’t want my children to feel the loss of one so dear to them. I didn’t want to them to experience the pain and sting of death. And, two of my children ended up having their dogs die (two different dogs died). And it affected not only them but me as well and this is what I wanted to avoid, and the pain surrounding their loss. 

But, what I was really telling them was ‘don’t risk your heart’ because it can be hurt or wounded or even broken. And that was wrong because it is ONLY when we risk our heart that we really live.

This is the day and the hour when we need to take risks and love those who may not love us back, or may even hurt us back. Jesus said that “the love of many will grow cold.” (See Matthew chapter 24).

Make a decision to be one who will take risks with your heart today and love. How do you do this? By reaching up to the Only One who can help you love; Jesus Christ. He longs to help you to take a risk with your heart; after all, it was He who took a great risk with His heart when He reached out to us FIRST.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)

Call out to Him; won’t you? ...the world needs risks takers like you and me today.

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



Jun 13, 2013

A Providential Hockey Puck

This past week I was about to leave my house to visit a friend of mine who has been in the hospital for about the past two months, and I had a thought to bring a hockey puck with me to give to my friend Stan. I ignored the thought not because I didn’t have a puck, but because it seemed kind of ‘dumb”.

I should probably tell you that I have at least twelve hundred pucks in one of our guest rooms affectionately named “the Hockey Lodge” (my granddaughter calls it “her bedroom” when she comes over), so taking one with me wouldn’t have been a problem.

As I drove to the hospital, once again the thought came to me that I should have taken a puck with me to give to Stan. I, once again, ignored the thought and continued on my journey.

I turned off the freeway to the freeway on which the hospital is located and had to stop because I noticed two things. First reason that I stopped was because the lights that controlled the traffic on the two freeways had turned red.
The second reason was because at the intersection I saw a hockey puck just in front on me on the freeway. A hockey puck; I’m telling you the truth, it was a hockey puck!

ALL year long I keep my eyes out for pucks, and anticipating finding them ALL year long, and seem to find them when no one else can. And, those who really know me also keep their eyes out for pucks to give me. Hint, hint, hint…

In fact, just last week at a graduation party someone came up to me and handed me three pucks from an anonymous donor. I added them to the one puck that Cathy brought home for me a few days before.

I stopped my truck and got out and picked up the puck and then got back in just before the lights turned green. I now had a puck to take to Stan!

I should probably add a legal disclaimer: "Professional puck collector on closed course. Do not attempt."

 In other words;
“Folks don’t do this because you are not supposed to do this. I am a professional hockey puck collector and have been trained how to stop at a traffic light, run out, pick up a puck, and get back into my truck before the lights change. It’s a gift; I can’t teach it to you”. Or, it is because I’ve smacked my head one too many times!

I arrived at the hospital carrying my puck and shared my story with Stan as we dialoged about the three stories in Luke 15 that Jesus told to let us know that there is a Father who is searching for each of us. We were both overwhelmed at His providence to the two of us.

As I was leaving, Stan asked me to hand him his Bible. He said that he wanted to take some time and re-read the three stories in Luke 15 of the “Lost sheep”, the “Lost Coin”, and the “Lost (prodigal) Son”. I gave him the Bible and then handed him the puck as a reminder of how much more we are worth searching for than any puck. He said that it was be a good reminder of the lost coin. I said goodbye and headed home.

I’ll admit that although I have seen a multitude of times the Heavenly Father provide for me in a similar way to this experience, I still don’t fully grasp it. But that’s OK for now; I am confident that He will continue to help me to understand.

For now, I rest in the fact that today, He DID provide for two people in a concrete way; even if it doesn’t fully make sense.

Jesus said that “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:7 NKJV) and so I’ll keep asking, seeking, and finding His provision.


Jun 6, 2013

A Five Dollar Armani Suit Coat

It was 1996, and I needed to get a large suit to use as a prop for a message that I was going to preach in a couple of days. My intention was to wear shoulder pads and pillows to look like I had bulked up. The title of my message was; “Keeping Your Spirit In Shape” from 2 Timothy2:1-22; which deals with growing strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Cathy and I went to the local Goodwill store to look for an extra large suit coat. While looking for the suit, Cathy said that she found one that I should try on. I tried on the suit coat that she gave me and it fit perfectly. Cathy told me that we should take this suit coat because it fit me so well and the price was only nine dollars. But, I told her; “I’m looking for an extra large suit coat. This suit coat fits me and so I won’t be able to wear it over shoulder pads and pillows”. So I went looking for a larger suit coat; which I did find and made my way to the cashier.

Just before we got to the cashier, Cathy showed me why she thought that we should get the first suit coat as well as the extra large one. Inside of the suit coat was a tag that informed me that it was a brand new Giorgio Armani double breasted men's suit jacket and it still had the original price tag from Macy’s attached to the sleeve.

When the cashier rang up our items, she stopped at the Armani and said; “This suit is priced wrong; there is no way that this suit should be nine dollars.” Cathy and I realized that they had discovered their error and would now charge us at least a couple of hundred for the suit. The cashier went on the tell us; “For nine dollars you are supposed to get a pair of pants with it. There is no way that I can charge you nine. I will let you have it for five dollars.”

We promptly paid the cashier and went home delighted at how the Lord provided us a brand new suit coat for one tenth the cost.