Mar 26, 2020

After The Storm Then What?

Well it’s been a quiet week…actually it wasn’t. It was a week of multiple conversations with my couples who are getting married this summer.

With the coronavirus taking its toll on life as we know it, over half of my couples opted to move their weddings to the end of the summer rather than just have a limited number of guests as “required” at this time.

The owners of one of the wedding venues at which I will officiate most of my weddings this summer have been dealing with at least five times as many as I have. Couples are frustrated as they try to find a balance between taking action and moving their wedding date so that all of their invited guests can attend…

Or do nothing and ride the storm out hoping that they will be able to have their wedding on the day planned.

Sunday morning church services changed their formats as online services became the new normal for almost every congregation.

All across the USA people were practicing being quarantined through a variety of ways: from self-imposed to mandated.

And so on and so on…

Life as we have known has ceased to exist. And similar to what we felt after 911, we once again wonder when the storm will be over and we can get back to how we normally do life.

Even though this storm will eventually be over; or at least that is what most of us believe, my concern has more to do with what happens AFTER the storm.

The question that I have been pondering today is what do we do when our freedoms are returned? What happens after the storm?

Freedoms like eating out in restaurants, or standing close enough to hug each other, or being able to sit together in the same building on a Sunday morning, or taking a trip to a grocery store and being able to purchase whatever it was that you can to the store to purchase…like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and tomatoes.

Freedoms like being able to walk into a local coffee shop, order coffee, and sit down instead of having to order online and then drive over to pick it up through a make-shift window.

We posted; “Remember” to remind us of those early days of 911 and the heroism and selflessness that followed. But after we got through the days and months following 911, we drifted back into life as we knew it; bad habits and all.

No longer did we remember when there was no traffic, advertising on TV, or people complaining.  We forgot when daily we heard the noise of fighter jets flying overhead…We had forgotten how to be grateful.

No longer were we united as a nation. No longer did you matter more than me. It didn’t take very long for us to once again forget the gratefulness we felt for that which we no longer had.

I have had numerous surgeries from the top of my head to the bottom of my soles. Some were repairs for injuries, some were total reconstruction, and others were for removing non-malignant tumors.

Each and every time required me to not be able to use part of my body for a season. Several of them meant that for a season I couldn’t use my hand and others had to tie my shoes, cut up my food, or put a straw in a cup of coffee in order for me to drink it.

One surgery required me to wear a cast for six months; THEN the therapy started teaching me to learn to walk again.

Several meant that I couldn’t drive, or play sports, or even work, or build, or play guitar, or paddle a kayak, or cook, or skate, or pick up my children or grandchildren. Some meant not having sex…

This past Christmas, my breathing was strained and difficult. On Christmas eve, I went to Urgent Care to get some prednisone and an inhaler just so that I could get a breath. It meant no hockey for two weeks.

But after the storm was over, and I wasn’t limited, I drifted back into life as I knew it; bad habits and all. No longer did you matter more than me. It didn’t take very long for me to once again forget the gratefulness I felt for that which I no longer had.

The question that I have been pondering today is what do we do when our freedoms are returned? What happens after the storm?

Do we really want to return to normal…where deep in our heart is the potential of “me vs you” when it comes to toilet paper?

Will I be grateful; will you?

It takes twenty-one days to make a habit. Perhaps one that we should all work on is being grateful. Perhaps now is the time to practice gratefulness and considering other people’s needs; not just our own.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-6)

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28)

“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)


All Scripture Used is New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Mar 19, 2020

Hey; I Need A Hug!

This past week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommended that people stay at least six feet away from each other in public because of the Coronavirus COVID-19. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.

Their basic instruction was to stay home, avoid physical contact, and don’t gather in large crowds. Introverts have been preparing for this moment their entire lives!


All across the USA pandemonium broke out. Churches canceled services and closed their doors. Schools canceled classes. Businesses encouraged those who could to work from home.

The NCAA basketball men and women’s tournaments were canceled. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. MLB suspended spring training and delayed opening games by at least two weeks. The PGA postponed the Masters.

Wedding venues have been reduced to fifty guests in attendance. Even restaurants, banks, and stores have temporarily closed their doors.

Worst of all, my hockey games were canceled; along with a hockey tournament that I was invited to play in Nashville in April. It’s the end of the world as we know it!

I’m not sure if the IRS still wants our taxes or not but President Donald Trump has instructed the Treasury Department and IRS to extend the April 15, 2020 deadline for filing federal income tax returns for those affected by Coronavirus. 
In stores empty shelves could be seen as people purchased EVERY bottle of hand-sanitizer and EVERY bottle of water and EVERY roll of toilet paper.

Although we don’t use hand sanitizer, the first two seem (somewhat) logical. The extreme amount of toilet paper that individuals purchased makes no sense at all. Don’t they realize that they can purchase online if this really is the zombie-apocalypse???

Cathy and I were happy that we had extra napkins in our vehicles, thus saving us an unnecessary trip to the madness.

This past week I also spoke at a chapel service at the Rochester Campus of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge (MnTC) -a Christian based rehab and recovery center.

I love not only preaching, but also hearing the stories of the lives of the men and women who have gone through or are currently in the program.

Another reason I like to visit the various campuses of MnTC is because they like to give hugs.

I didn’t always like hugs. In the days of my youth I had learned to distance myself from people by only shaking hands. This was my not so subtle attempt to not get hurt in life. If you don’t get too close then no one can hurt you; right?

My exception was with girls; but that always had an ulterior motive. A hug is supposed to be a way of giving and receiving human contact in this otherwise detached and sequestered world.

When I was young, to my best recollection, my family weren’t huggers. Perhaps that is where I learned to practice my physical stoicism.

I should note that my family are huggers now. One of the joys that I have is the gift of touch that my parents give me whenever we meet. We hug each other when we arrive and when we leave.

My wife Cathy’s family are all huggers. Yes, ALL of them. It didn’t matter whether I was coming or going; they wanted to hug me.

When I first started dating Cathy, this threw me off. They, somehow, thought it was OK to hug me rather than the traditional handshake as they tried to break through my force-shield.

In time, I had built my reputation as one who was OK with just a handshake. And then, I let my guard down and started letting people get closer to me.

The process started when a friend of mine who was my pastor challenged me to start letting others in. He commented that he thought that I was one of the most transparent people he knew. He observed how I was willing to share my life openly.

But, in time, he discovered that what others saw as openness was actually a glass fortress around my life that only a few people had a key to get into. He asked me for a key.  I think it threw him off a bit when (a few years later) I came up to him and gave him a hug.

The process continued when one of my employees at MnTC told me that he was doing an intervention. He said that he was starting a “twelve-step” hug program for me.

He explained that he had told the clients and my staff that I had to give and receive least one hug a day as I progressively continued until I was receiving at least twelve hugs a day; then I could graduate from his program.

He implemented the program right after I had shoulder surgery; making it difficult to run away.

Four years later when I resigned from my position, I was “forced” to stand at a narrow doorway (five feet wide) as approximately sixty clients and a dozen staff one-by-one gave me a hug. Cathy stood by watching me seeing the success of the “twelve-step” hug program.

Fast forward to this week. When the CDC said “no hugs” and “stay six-feet away”, my heart sank. I had finally gotten used to the idea of giving and receiving hugs and now someone (in an attempt to save my life) tells me that this is not acceptable?

HEY, I NEED A HUG! I’ve lived way too many years of my life surviving on a handshake or a head nod as a form of human contact.

My attempt to stay safe and unhurt sent the wrong message to those who attempted to show affection to me. I came to understand that people didn’t understand that I was just trying to get through life unscathed. They took it as a form of rejection of them.

After going through the “twelve-step” hug program, my life is richer and people appreciate my receptivity to their attempt to show affection to me.

Jesus said that in the last days the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24). And although I have no desire to spread COVID-19, I would rather continue to give and receive hugs and get COVID-19 (by hugging) …

…than go through life as I once lived; a hug-less, stoic and isolated person in this world in which we were made to give and receive love.

With all due respect to the CDC, when you see me, it’s OK to give me a hug.  HEY, I NEED A HUG!

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, MnTC is here to help. Freedom from addiction starts here. Call 612-FREEDOM today.

For over 30 years MnTC has been restoring hope to people struggling with drug, alcohol, and other life-controlling addictions by addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. 

The mission of MnTC is to assist teens and adults in gaining freedom from chemical addictions and other life controlling problems by addressing their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

They offer effective and affordable programs throughout Minnesota with campuses in Minneapolis, Brainerd, Duluth, Rochester and Buffalo. MnTC offers both a long-term, faith-based recovery program and short-term licensed treatment program, allowing us to effectively serve individuals with a broad spectrum of addiction issues; from those seeking treatment for the first time, to those who have been struggling with addiction for many years.

Mar 12, 2020

Proclaiming The Goodness Of God

I love You Lord
Oh Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
I will sing of the goodness of God

All my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest nights
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend

I have lived in the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
With my life laid down,
I’m surrendered now, I give You everything
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me

Copyright © 2020 Bethel Music-All Rights Reserved 

Mar 5, 2020

This Story has A Nice Ring To It

“Do you still make jewelry?”, I asked the woman behind the solid wall of glass.

I was at a silver and gold exchange business located in my neighborhood. I had brought in some old jewelry and silverware that had been in a drawer for some time with the intention of selling it.

My overall goal was, if any of it was worth anything, to get some cash or materials for me to use to make a ring to replace the one that I had recently lost.

The ring that I had lost wasn’t expensive or valuable. It was a very simple ring that I had modified and liked to wear. I had recently lost some weight and best I could figure the ring had fallen off and I didn’t even know it!

I found a design for a ring that I liked. It was a simple silver ring with a gold cross. I am an artist and have made jewelry in the past. But, because I don’t have access to the same tools that I would need to do a “lost-wax” ring, I had discussed with a jeweler friend of mine what he would charge me to make the ring.

His price was fair, but higher than I wanted to pay for a ring. So, I decided to sell some items so see what I could come up with for cash or precious metals to make the ring myself.

Most of what I brought in to sell wasn’t worth a whole lot. The two items that did have some value looked like costume jewelry and didn’t appear to be worth anything. It turned out that they were both made of white gold and were incrusted with diamond chips making them valuable.

After I filled out some paperwork, I was handed a check and was just about to leave the shop when I remembered the real reason that I had come to the store.

I also remembered that this woman had told me in the past that she had gone to college to study jewelry making. I thought that I would ask her if she still made jewelry and ask what she would charge to make a ring for me.
“No, I don’t”, she answered me. “I will occasionally do some modifications such as resizing, but nothing other than that. Why do you ask?”

I told her how I had lost my ring and that I wanted to replace it.

“What style were you looking to make?” she asked.

I told her about the simple silver ring with a gold cross that I had seen.

She said to me; “I have one that I might be willing to sell.”

She continued. “Mine is a simple ring with a cross on it. In fact, just this morning I was looking at the ring and thought to myself that I should maybe sell the ring since it is too big for my fingers…would you like me to email you a picture of it?”

I told her “yes”, gave her a business card, and went home.

Later that evening, I received an email from her along with some pictures of the ring we discussed. In the email she stated that she was on the fence about selling it, but because I asked about it, she said she would be willing to part with it.

The ring was simple and, it turns out, was made of silver and the cross was made of gold.

We exchanged a few more emails, including what was the price that she would sell it for, and agreed to meet the next day for a look at the ring to see it would fit me.

The next day, I went to her business, tried on the ring (it fit), and willingly paid her asking price. We both marveled at how the transaction took place.

And the amount of money that I received for the jewelry that I sold her was more than her price for the ring. In fact, I was able to purchase the ring and still give a tithe on the amount that I received in the sale of the jewelry.

It is the simple things, isn’t it, where God seems to shine the best! It is in the extra ordinary requests of my heart that only He knows, when He seems to be the closest.
It is when I need new clothing and someone gives me some for a gift.

It is when I need a hug and someone comes up and gives me one without me asking.

It is when I am desirous of something like chocolate, or steak, or tickets to watch the Minnesota Wild play and someone gives them to me without me asking.

It is when I long to preach and someone calls me up and asks me if I am available.

No, I didn’t need the ring; I have others that I can wear.

But I DID need to be reminded that He does know that I am here…

And for me to know that He hears the desires of my heart.

See, I told you that this story has a nice ring to it.

Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation! Selah (Psalm 68:19)