Dec 26, 2019


In the darkness of a quiet night,  
Hope found a place on earth.
From eternity to measured time 
arrived through virgin birth.

In a new born child Messiah dwelt
Though no one really knew,
The day would come when called upon
To see this mission through.

His mother watched her child grow strong,
and too soon become a man.
In sorrow knowing deep within
He would complete God's plan.

He healed the sick, and raised the dead,
still few would dare believe,
This man was who He said He was
We just could not conceive.

Then one dark day the time arrived 
His mission was complete.
I watched as He was beaten, 
nails in His hands and feet.

Compassion still shown through His eyes
Like none I'd ever known.
He closed His eyes and hung His head 
To His Father He had flown.

The next two days had stumbled on 
The future held the same.
The third day broke the darkened sky
And once again Hope came.

Oh death where is your victory,
Oh grave where is your sting.
This child born into darkness wins 
and with Him HOPE He brings.

Larry Houghton 12-09-2019
 © 2019 All Rights Reserved
Used With Permission from the Author 

Dec 19, 2019

Someone Needs A Timeout!

Someone once said;
“Christmas would sure be a lot more fun if it didn’t come at such a busy time of the year!”

The reason that Christmas may seem to be too busy is that (oftentimes) we don’t take time to focus on the real purpose for the celebration: JESUS CHRIST.

If this year has been crazy and super busy for you as you attempt to be some kind superhero parent, spouse, uncle, aunt, neighbor, or friend…

STOP and let me remind you of why we set apart this time of the year.

Darlene Zschech (singer/song writer) reminds us that we celebrate Christmas because of a “LOVE that caused heaven to stand still, a son to be born with the purpose of an early death, so that we would know the fullness of TRUE life.”

Take time, real time, to read SLOWLY the following scripture…

In order to once again center yourself on what is really important in life.

Then and only then, will you be able to complete the tasks on your plate between now and Christmas.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son.

And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.

He came to help, to put the world right again.

Anyone who trusts in Him is acquitted;

Anyone who refuses to trust Him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it.

And why?

Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to Him.” (John 3:16-18 MSG)

Merry Christmas my friend! I’m pulling for you to have the best Christmas of your life!

Pastor Tommy O

The Message (MSG)
All Scripture form The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson 

Dec 12, 2019

Stuck in an Elevator Between the 7th and 8th Floor

I was thinking about elevators the other day just before going with Cathy to watch the Minnesota Wild play the Ottawa Senators. I’m not sure why.

I was pondering how some people really struggle with a fear of elevators.

For some it is “claustrophobia”, which is the fear of enclosed spaces. Because an elevator is a small and confined box, it is easy to see how it could cause a claustrophobic reaction. 

For others it is “agoraphobia”, which is the fear of being trapped in a situation in which escape would be difficult or impossible should a panic attack occur.

For others it is the fear of being stuck between floors in an elevator; which has no name.

Trapped, stuck with (seemingly) no way of ever getting out….

As my mind pondered this, I found myself taking stairs at the Excel Energy Center instead of taking the elevators. Cathy probably thought that I was just being healthy by using the stairs.

And yet, did you know that elevators are safer than cars? They really are.

And still many people struggle with this fear.

As I pondered this, I realized how this was an allegory for how people can actually get stuck in real life between a problem and a solution.

Specifically, I was pondering how many people, when struggling with area of sin in their life, will head to Romans chapter seven in the Bible.

In this section of scripture, the Apostle Paul deals with the very real struggle of sinning and not sinning. Paul wrote:
 “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (7:15) “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (7:19)

Then Paul ends in this great theological question:
 “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:24)

That is where many people stop reading, concluding that they are prone to sin and are not able to get unstuck. It is as though fear has gripped their hearts and minds and they see no way out of their struggle.
And this is where way too many people live; stuck between chapter seven and chapter eight.

But Paul has more to say; in fact, he answers his own question in the very next verse:
“I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25)

But that is only part way where we need to go. Metaphorically, it is like we are “stuck in an elevator between the seventh and eighth floor”.

Chapter eight is filled with great promises of HOPE that our battle with sin isn’t supposed to be fought on our own. WE have a team which is ready and able to help us.

We read in chapter eight that there is no condemnation when we do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (8:1)

We read that “what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” (8:3)

We read that he has put the Spirit of His Son in us by which we cry out “Daddy!” to Him (8:15)

We read that we don’t do it alone; “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (8:26-27)

We read that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (8:28)

Paul continues:
 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 8:31-35)

Paul goes on to hammer the point home and get us unstuck between chapter seven and eight by writing:
 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:37-38)

In fact, you should probably read seven and eight in one sitting; I’ve only hit a few of the verses.

So, the next time you are struggling and make your way to Romans chapter seven, don’t stop and get stuck, keep reading on to chapter eight.

This way you don’t have to try to live life “stuck in an elevator between the seventh and eighth floor”.

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

Dec 5, 2019

Another Day In Paradise

“How are you doing?" I asked a friend who I ran in to at a local store.

"Living the dream!" He exclaimed; "It's another day in paradise!"

Really? This is what he dreamed of when he was up all night studying for the finals? This was his dream life and all that it included?

My friend was being sarcastic for his life was marked with many trials such as a failed marriage and bouncing from job to job. His response masked his pain that he was longing for a better life that was filled with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious moments of unending joy!

Truth is, much of life is marked with doing what we need to do: Get up, get dressed, eat, brush our teeth, go to work or do our chores; and at the end of the day we do it all in reverse order and go to bed.

That is how much of our lives go; marked with the occasional outing to purchase groceries and other household items...only to get up and do it all again the next day.

If that isn't enough, throw in the fun tasks such as cutting the grass, shoveling the snow, weeding the garden, taking out the trash, and cleaning the fish tank.

Fun isn't it? Mundane? Boring?  I haven't even added in the trials and hardships that we go through as we live in the real world of brokenness that is so far from the paradise that we long for.

Unfortunately, we stop short and look for approval, validation, and life from things that will never really bring real life and fall short of paradise.

We strive throughout the minutia of our day to get everything that we can possibly want to make this bearable such as tablets, computers, dishwashers, ovens, cars, Roombas, leaf blowers, paper shredders, smartwatches, roof rakes, salad spinners and all of the other modern conveniences  that we need to break up our boring world.

So, we mark our lives by BIG events such as the big holidays, birthdays, weddings, vacations, funerals, graduations, etc. We spend our days planning and longing for the day when we _____________ (fill in the blank).

And yet that isn't really what this life is all about. In fact, many people use their vacation to get away from all that they have by going deep into the wilderness where they can be off the grid and have absolutely no modern conveniences; including running water or electricity.

Real life comes as we pay attention to that heart cry that says;
"this can't be all that there is..."

It is the heart cry from One who put eternity in our hearts that causes us to seek life. 
Life is about just showing up and doing what is on our plates for the day. It is about being consistent and faithful to the items on our agenda for the day. Its leaving room for spontaneous divine 'interruptions' that cross our path.

Life, real life is learning to wake up and be grateful for even being able to wake up. It is looking for and expressing gratefulness in the minutia of this everyday, mundane existence that we call life.

Life comes from the One who Himself wants to give life this side of paradise. He put the heart cry in our hearts for paradise.

Today, at this very moment, He is reaching out to you; calling to you to come to Him because He wants you to have real life. Today. Right now.

His Name is Jesus and He tells us how to get this life in Matthew 11:28:

“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.”

He is the one who said in John 10:10 that He came to that we may have life (Zoë) and life abundantly (superabundant in quality or superior; excessive, exceedingly, beyond measure, superfluous, vehement).

Sounds like paradise this side of paradise doesn't it? And you can have it each and every day no matter what happens. It is a matter of choosing how you respond to the grace and mercy that awaits you at each and every turn of your day; from the moment that you awake.

Your response to Him is to say "yes". It's not based upon what you have done; good or bad...that is what His death, burial, and resurrection is all about. The Bibles says in Romans 10:9-13:

"...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 

Jesus will help you to live today and every day after that in paradise; here on earth and eternally beyond this life.

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

Nov 28, 2019

A Thanksgiving Psalm

Psalm 100 The Message (MSG)

1-2 On your feet now—applaud God!
    Bring a gift of laughter,
    sing yourselves into His presence.

Know this: God is God, and God, God.
    He made us; we didn’t make Him.
    We’re his people, His well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
    Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
    Thank him. Worship Him.

For God is sheer beauty,
    all-generous in love,
    loyal always and ever.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

Nov 21, 2019

“What’s With The Two Cents?”

Cathy called out to me from the utility room.

I was in the adjacent family room and hadn’t heard what she said so I asked her to repeat the question.

Cathy repeated her question; “What’s with the two cents?”

I came into the utility room and realized she was asking about the coins on top of the dryer.

She continued in her investigation; “It seems as though every load of laundry has coins in it; do you pick up pennies?”

I told her that it is just one of my (many) quirks. “Whenever I see coins on the ground, I pick them up”; I told her and added, “It’s not because I am hoping to get one hundred and have a dollar.”

I put my hand in the pockets of the jeans that I was wearing and found two cents. My mind started to wander…

The phrase "My two cents" and its longer version "put my two cents in" is oftentimes used to preface a tentative statement of one’s opinion. To offer my two cents is to offer up my opinion; sometimes before it is ever asked.

Another phrase; “a penny for your thoughts” is used when the other person is asking for what I am thinking and perhaps is asking for my opinion.

Giving my two cents may not seem like a lot and yet it can leave an impact; especially when our opinion has been really thought through.

I’ve been pondering this phrase because, although often my opinion is asked from others, it really may be MY opinion; not necessarily godly wisdom.

I’ve been pondering this phrase because although I have a history of having an opinion about everything, I am working on NOT giving it out just because I have an opinion.

And this includes times when others will ask me; “What do you think about…?”

I’m working on SayING the Good; NOT giving out my two cents but only words that will help and impart grace to the hearers.

Do you, too, struggle sometimes with giving your two cents? Here is what I am working on, perhaps it will help you.

Speak to Build Others Up
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

Speak Without Complaining/Arguing
Do all things without complaining and disputing (Philippians 2:14)

Don’t Speak Too Much
And a fool’s voice is known by his many words (Ecclesiastes 5:3b)

Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness; they chatter on and on. (Ecclesiastes 10:13-14a)

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (Proverbs 10:19)

Speak Without Gossiping
gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence. (Proverbs 11:13)

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

Speak Without Criticizing Others
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. (James 4:11)

Speak At the Highest Level of Your Faith
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak (2 Corinthians 4:13)

Sounds simple; right? Well it’s not and it will take some time to make the change. Remember it took you this long to get to this place in your life and it may take time to get to a new way of speaking…

But if you continue to work at it, you will get there.

So have grace with yourself as you start this new journey of only saying the good. You and those around you will be changed for the better.

 “Keep your stick on the ice; I’m pulling for you!” -Red Green

Nov 14, 2019

"What This Church Needs is a Good 5-cent Cigar."

[ kuh-myoo-ni-tee ]
a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists

The plan was pretty simple: Sell a successful restaurant (and the adjacent property that housed twenty tenants of a variety of businesses) to an investor who would tear down the properties and build a senior high rise that would overlook the Mississippi River.

In an effort to accommodate the sale, the twenty businesses that occupied the site were given notice that they would need to vacate and relocate elsewhere.

The tenants responded by securing new locations, packing up, and re-establishing their businesses in new locations with the hopes that their loyal patrons would follow them.

Within a few months all of the businesses found new locations and started once again to establish roots. Notices were sent out and patrons such as Cathy and I continued to support their favorite business by following them over to their new locations.

Or I should say most clients followed the businesses to their new location.

One of the businesses that needed to relocate was a cigar and pipe tobacconist store. Over the past forty years it has been recognized as one of the premier spots for aficionados and provided its patrons with a space both indoors and outside to satisfy their passion for enjoying cigars and pipe tobacco.
In the past, I have stopped in the shop to look through their ever-growing pile of cigar boxes to see if any of them would meet my need for manufacturing my next cigar box guitar.

I should note that although I tend to prefer to use antiques cigar boxes to build my cigar box guitars, the shop was a great place to search for a box that would inspire me. I also liked the sense of community that I observed and the hospitality shown to me, even though I was only (occasionally) purchasing a used cigar box.

In time, the shop relocated to another city, but they left behind a bunch of displaced patrons who continued to gather in the evenings to sit outside of the (closed) shop to smoke their cigars and pipes like they had for many years. Almost every week for the past eighteen months I would see this group of patrons sitting outside in the evenings no matter what month of the year it was.

Just this week, while driving past the site in the evening, I saw a group of them gathered as though the shop had never moved.

Now, I'm relatively certain that these patrons still purchase their tobacco from the shop in the new location which is only ten minutes away. But their need to gather seems to far outweigh the fact that the temperatures are dropping as the season is transitioning into winter (as they did last winter when these people sat outside).

My observation is that the need for community is stronger than we may realize and in many respects is part of the answer to what ails us.

For many years, some pastors and churches have thought that the reason that people didn't attend was due to a lack of interest. I disagree and submit that perhaps the visitors didn't return because they didn't find what they were really looking for; community.

In fact, when the church was established, the members gathered “daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart…” (Acts 2:46)

The problem is, the church doesn’t have a corner on the market for community.

Community is found in many other venues besides the church such as bars, beer leagues (bowling, softball, hockey, etc.), hunting clubs, coffee shops, support groups, barn raising, sewing bees, potluck dinners, sporting events, and many other venues. It can even be found in dark places such as sharing a needle for drugs or sultry affections under a bridge. 

These patrons of the (former) cigar shop found each other and a place to gather and they appear to have no plans on leaving until the bulldozers raze the buildings and they are forced to find a new place to gather.

If the church would capitalize on this, I know of at least ten people who would relocate on their property.

No, I'm not suggesting that churches build a smoking lounge.

I'm merely suggesting that if community is what attracts people to gather, then that might be part of the formula to keep them in church.

Then, and only then will the main message (the Gospel) be heard by individuals in which relational equity has been established through meeting their need for community.

Perhaps it is time to get back to our roots and once again be the church in which others can find gladness and simplicity of heart through community.

Tommy O's Guitars can be found on Facebook