Jul 26, 2018

What's The Plan Phil?

Let me set the scenefrom “Modern Family” television show
Phil and Claire Dunphy have an old station wagon that they have decided to sell and Claire is having a hard time with letting it go; even though they haven’t driven it in a very long time.

Phil tells Claire; “It’s gonna be tough to say goodbye, it always is. Nobody loves change, but, part of life is learning to let go of things.”

To ease Claire’s pain, Phil comes up with a plan and takes the family of five on one last nostalgic adventure in the car; which includes take out dinner and a scenic drive.

As they are parked at a scenic overlook, Claire thanks Phil for his thoughtful trip, stating that she really feels better already.

As Claire and Phil are exchanging a kiss to mark this picturesque family trip, their son Luke lets everyone know that his stomach hurts from eating too fast and that he can’t breathe.

At the same time, a spider is found by Haley (one of the daughters); and she starts to freak out.

The windows don’t go down, so Phil offers to turn on the a/c, but instead turns on the heat which spews out hot air and dust; adding to their inability to breathe.

From there Phil’s plan all goes downhill.

Luke let’s everyone know that he is about to throw up. Claire tells him to use his meal bag to throw up in, but Luke says that it “smells like onions!”; which only makes him even more sick.

Meanwhile, Haley has become totally freaked out by the spider as she tries to get away from it.

Claire tells everyone to family to “GET OUT!” and they all leave the old family station wagon; without putting on the emergency brake.

As the family is outside in the fresh air, the car begins rolling backwards towards the cliff. Phil leaps on the hood spread-eagled and grabs on to the exterior air vent, rather than to try to get into the car and hit the brake.

Claire looks at him with a baffled expression and screams, "What's the plan, Phil?!" To which Phil relies; “At least I’m trying to do something!”

Claire cries out; “Let it go Phil” and the car falls off the cliff to the valley below.

As the family walks back in the darkness to their home, the three Dunphy children say mockingly; “What’s the plan, Phil?!”

Most of us can relate to Phil because we’ve been there. We make plans with the anticipation of great things, and disaster sets in. And life screams at us; "What's the plan, Phil?!"

To which we sheepishly reply; “At least I’m trying to do something!”

Or we have a promise of something and a plan to get “there” or “it” and then we run into obstacles.

From there it all goes downhill as we hang on, about to go off the cliff and no matter how we plan, things don’t and won’t always go as we think they should.

If that is you today, hear me compassionately saying to you; “Let it go!”

All throughout the scriptures we can read about great promises that ran into obstacles; or at least they seemed to be obstacles to the promise…

Alex, Haley, Luke
For example, the children of Israel were told to leave Egypt and go the land that was promised to them (Exodus 14) and they came to a sea and had no way to cross it.

From there, it all went downhill, because as they trusted only when the circumstances were favorable; instead of resting in the invisible and eternal God who has the bigger picture and the true plan.

Or how about Abraham? When he finally got the son that he had waited so long for, he is told to take him and sacrifice him (Genesis 22). He had to trust that even this would not stop God’s plan for him to not only have a son, but a son who would inherit all that he had.

Or how about when the disciples were in deep grief on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) because the death of Jesus seemed to be an obstacle to the promised Kingdom of God. They didn’t understand that it was God’s plan all along to have death, burial, and resurrection.

Or how about Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9), who was going to arrest Christians and throw them into prison or kill them; and ended up surrendering his life to Jesus.
How about you and your situation?

Do you believe God only when the circumstances are favorable, or do you believe no matter what the circumstances may be?

Are you still trying to plan your way out of your mess or obstacle?

If that is you today, hear me compassionately saying to you; “Let it go!”

Even if you caused some of the obstacles, God isn’t thrown off by your mess. He doesn’t freak out and say, “Well, I really just don’t know what to do this time!”

God wants you to trust that He has the PLAN even if you can’t see it.

My friend, we have only a partial view here on earth of what exactly God is doing, His half-completed, half-developed plan; but all of it will make sense when this whole journey is complete. 

We start this by surrendering our lives and all of our situations to Jesus and trust Him bring us to the place of having a focus on who He is; knowing that everything else is wasted time and wasted energy.

That would be a good plan.

Not sure where to start practically? Follow this link: https://needhim.org/

Or drop me an email at: pastortommyoestreich@gmail.com

Jul 19, 2018

This Is Our Ice

This past hockey season, the Minnesota Wild had a new campaign that was called; “This Is Our Ice”.

This campaign included a day in September when fans from all over Minnesota were invited and encouraged to each bring in a jar of water (3oz) from their local pond, lake, or ice rink to the Xcel Energy Arena.

The water was filtered, poured into a Zamboni, and frozen to help make ice at Xcel Energy Center for the Minnesota Wild's 2017-18 season.

Minnesota Wild President Matt Majka explained that every winter, the ponds and lakes freeze over and become sheets of ice where young and old play hockey.

“This Is Our Ice” campaign is built upon a tradition that began during the inaugural season (2000).

At the beginning of every hockey game, a young hockey player skates out and plants a MN Wild flag at center ice to let everyone know that THIS IS OUR POND!

It is as much of a tradition at the start of every game as singing the National Anthem(s) or shouting; “Let’s play Hockey!”

Players and fans are hoping that this symbolic gesture sends fear into the hearts of every opponent that steps their skates on our pond. THIS IS OUR ICE!

We are saying to all who oppose us; “Not here, not now, not ever! This is our place; and you can’t win here. We are dressed for battle! We are equipped for war! Nothing or no one or no weapon that you bring here will prosper! We will defeat you and you must flee!”

Now that the season is over, I’m really not sure if it made any difference because even though the Minnesota Wild have the third-longest active post-season appearance streak in NHL (6 seasons), they have yet to go very deep into the play offs or come close to winning the Stanley Cup.

Or did it?

Everywhere that I went this past season, I saw it on shirts and jerseys on fans. In their yards were signs proclaiming; “This Is Our Ice!” On their cars were banners waving proudly as they drove them.

Fans were pumped, not just in hope that this was the season that we would do it; but because fans had a sense of something bigger than themselves.

Fans collectively were telling anyone who would listen that we were a team and that this was our town and they best leave Minnesota without a victory.

We (fans) would not cower!

As Christians, we have a banner that we can plant before each and every “game” that we face. In the Old Testament (Exodus 17:15), God is revealed as Jehovah-Nissi; God is my Banner.

We are saying to all who oppose us; “Not here, not now, not ever! This is our place; and you can’t win here. We are dressed for battle! We are equipped for war! (Ephesians 6:10-20). Nothing or no one or no weapon that you bring here will prosper! We will defeat you and you must flee!”

The Lord said it best through the Prophet Isaiah (54:17);

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.
This is not based upon whether or not we “play the game perfectly. It is based upon Jesus who already defeated the enemy once and for all on the cross through His death, burial, and resurrection.

We have a hope because we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.

And because Jesus was victorious; each and every time we are opposed, we can remind ourselves and Satan that we are a part of a team and this is our town (family, finances, health, etc.) and Satan had best leave Minnesota without a victory.

Because of Jesus, we too can shout out in confidence; “This is Our Ice!

Jul 12, 2018

Flying Solo

It was July 2001 and a friend of mine, Brad, called to ask me what I was doing the next day and to see if I wanted to go for a ride in his plane with him to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

He said that he had to get some flight hours in and that we would stop at an airport in to eat some lunch before flying back home.

I had some time on my hands so I said; “Yes”.

We met at a hanger in Lake Elmo, Minnesota where Brad stored his airplane. After filing his flight plan, he filled his plane tank with fuel and performed a pre-flight check. Once it was completed, we got into the plane and buckled our seat belts.

The plane was only a two-seater, about the size of a Ford Maverick; especially since each side had a small window that could open. The rest of the windows offered a good view.

Brad spoke with the tower and we were given permission to approach the runway and to take off.

The flight was relatively smooth as we followed Interstate 94 East. To liven things up, Brad asked me if I would like him to do a “barrel-roll”; which I declined. Instead he tipped the wings and flew at a forty-five-degree angle so I could get a better view.

I requested that he fly horizontally instead; to which he obliged and continued the ninety-minute flight to our destination.

The sky was clear and the companionship was great as Brad spent time explaining the instruments and what he was doing. Soon we arrived and he landed safely and drove the plane to a place as directed by the tower.

We found a place at the airport that served lunch and sat back and ate a meal together.

After a while, we both mentioned that we should probably head back to Minnesota and made our way back to the plane and departed for home.
Part way through the flight, Brad asked me if I wanted to fly the plane. This plane had two sets of pedals and two steering wheels which made it easy for either of us to fly the plane at any time.

He knew that I had flown simulators before and said that all I would have to do is follow Interstate 94 West.

I should clarify that even though the simulators are professional-grade and are the exact same ones that commercial pilots use for training and recurrent training on; I had never successfully landed a plane before.

In fact, I had crashed every time that I tried to land.

But, to my defense, I should add that I have never taken flying lessons; I was simply able to use the simulators (under the watchful eyes of the person who ran them) when I was working as a subcontractor at the Delta training center in Minneapolis.

Brad asked me again and instructed me what to do. I grabbed the wheel in front of me and pressed into the opportunity. Brad, seeing that I had taken the wheel let go of his side and sat back in his seat.

Instantly my core-temperature went up and my hands became sweaty as I held tightly onto the steering wheel as though it took all I had to steer it.

Brad told me to not hang on so tightly, suggesting that I only needed to steer the wheel with one or two fingers; “kind of like how you drive a car”. He added; “Let the plane do its job. It was made to fly.”

How is this like a car? Didn’t he catch that I had crashed every time that I tried to land a commercial plane simulator?

Brad saw that I was too tense so he folded his arms and said that he wasn’t going to grab the wheel to bail me out. He said that I needed to calm myself and learn to relax if I was going to fly solo.

So, I worked hard to relax my grip and flew using only nine of my fingers as I tried to once again enjoy the plane ride.

Just when I would be feeling comfortable with letting the plane fly with minimal assistance from me, a gust of wind would come up and shake the plane from side to side.

And, once again, I would grip the wheel tightly for my solo flight.

And once again Brad would fold his arms and said that he wasn’t going to grab the wheel to bail me out as he reminded me that I needed to calm myself and learn to relax.

Needless to say, the longer I flew, the more I did become relaxed and once again started enjoying the ride.

As I flew, I flashed back to how I did the same thing when I was learning to drive the car and even then, held on too tightly to the steering wheel. In time I learned to drive the car using only my knees; and this was before we had cell phones to distract us!

As we crossed the Minnesota border, Brad said that he would take over once again so that he could get ready for making the landing. I let go of the steering wheel and noticed that I had completely reshaped the steering wheel when I squeezed it too tightly. Ok, that part I made up.

As we were about the land, Brad looked at me and said; “Hey, I would have taken over the controls if you had gotten into trouble. There is no way that I would have let you crash the plane with me in it!”

As I reflect, I wonder why I had tensed up; especially since Brad was with me the whole time. Why had I acted as though I was flying solo and all alone?

Was it a lack of trust or had my eyes been so focused on myself that I forgot that I had an experienced and seasoned pilot with me who wasn’t going to let me fail?

He was simply trying to let me learn to fly under his watchful eye and protection and would take control should I get into trouble.

And then I thought about my God. 

Many times, I felt as though I was flying solo as He allowed me to step out and go through situations. Many times, I felt abandoned by Him as though He simply had His arms folded and I was on my own.

Was it a lack of trust or had my eyes been so focused on myself that I forgot that I had an experienced and seasoned pilot with me who wasn’t going to let me fail?

He was simply trying to let me learn to fly under His watchful eye and protection and would take control should I get into trouble.

He would never leave me nor forsake me.

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.”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Jul 5, 2018

Happy Freedom Week

The Forth of July can be a time that reminds us that not everyone is free in the USA. We are a divided nation in which many are still oppressed and not walking in the freedom we declared in our "Declaration of Independence" 242 years ago:
 ...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 

As a Christian, my heart grieves that we have so much injustice taking place. America; we have a long way to go. 

But one of the greatest freedoms we have as a nation is that we can speak up and draw attention to issues and wrongdoings.

This and other freedoms were paid for by men and women; dare I say even youth, whose passions for other people's freedom drove them to do something about it. 

Many of them paid for your freedoms and my freedoms with their bodies, minds, and even their lives.

I have never served in military and over the past few years I have become very grateful for those who have paid for all of the freedoms that I have as a citizen of the United States of America. 

To those of you who have served I say; "THANK YOU!" from the bottom of my heart.

The following is an old blog that I wrote eight years ago when my oldest son Jonathan was graduating from his basic training. 

Aug 20, 2010

Mighty Warrior

I feel the need to state upfront that I am not really a “paramilitary” person, nor have I ever been a part of the armed forces; I wasn’t even a boy scout. I grew up in a generation that for the most part looked down upon anyone who had anything to do with the military; mostly due to the mishandling of the Vietnam War. During the mid-seventies, my short-term fix (should I have been drafted) would have been to go to Canada and make sure that I was being taken care of, after all, I was free to do what I wanted.

I admit that this mentality was wrong and that I was self-focused and self-serving. Freedom isn’t free; on the contrary is has been paid for sacrificially by men and women; dare I say boys and girls, who chose to lay down their time and some their lives. Everyone who has ever served in the military paid for my freedom to reject any participation in the military service. To each of you reading this who have been or are currently in the military (in one branch or another), I say a long overdue; “Thank you” for paying for my freedoms I receive as an citizen of the United States of America.

My mind has been thinking about the military today partially because this week I attended the graduation ceremonies for my oldest son Jonathan, who (at age 28 ½) graduated from basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I am now the father of a soldier. Jonathan will continue to pursue his training as an officer and serve as a soldier in the National Guard. I am very proud of my son Jonathan for following a dream that he has since he was ten years old; to be a soldier.   

While at the Fort I saw a plaque that caught my attention. It said; “EVERY SOLIDER IS A WARRIOR”.   

Written below that phrase were the following bullet points: 
     • NEVER QUIT. 

Surrounding the plaque were seven values: 
  1. LOYALTYBear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Army, Army Acquisition Corps, Acquisition Support Center and our Soldiers
  2. DUTYFulfill your moral obligations to the best of your ability each and every day
  3. RESPECTTreat other people as you yourself want to be treated — with dignity and respect
  4. SELFLESS SERVICEPut the welfare of the Nation, the Army and the Soldiers you support before your own
  5. HONORLive up to all the Army Values. Be honest, truthful and sincere in all of your actions
  6. INTEGRITYDo what's right, legally and morally, in both word and deed
  7. PERSONAL COURAGEFace fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). Do what you know is right
Powerful words that caused me to ponder; “What if Christians followed each of these statements throughout their daily lives; would it make a difference?” 

What if Christians followed each of these statements on the aforementioned plaque throughout their daily lives; what difference would it make? Read the values and make the translation into how we as Christians should live; I think that you can see the application. These are values that WE as Christians should be living as an example of what it means to be a Christian; a “follower of Christ”.

Jesus, the ultimate Mighty Warrior said; “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:29)

The Apostle Paul wrote: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:3-5)

How about you; Are you simply tired of fighting battles in your life with seemingly no results? Do you wish that you were a part of a larger “army” of people who would be willing to come along side of you and fight for you and watch your back? 

The Bible says that when we surrendered our lives to His Lordship, we become a member of the family of God; the Body of Christ. Have you ever surrendered your life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Listen my friend; you can be a part of this great “army” today by simply: 

Go to the following link athttp://www.billygraham.org/specialsections/steps-to-peace/steps-to-peace.asp

Or drop me an email.

Mighty Warrior Lyrics and Music by Debbye Graafsma
Mighty Warrior, dressed for battle
Holy Lord of all is He
Commander in chief, bring us to attention
Lead us into battle to crush the enemy

Satan has no authority in this place
he has no authority here
For this habitation
Was fashioned for the Lord’s presence
No authority here

Jesus has all authority in this place
He has all authority here
For this habitation
Was fashioned for the Lord’s presence
No authority here