The Dog Licked the Fritos?!

     When I was a kid, my brother was 4 years older than me. (And, based on the relative stability of the space-time continuum, he is probably STILL 4 years older than me! By the way, I learned everything I know about the space-time continuum from Doctor Emmett Brown of Back to the Future fame! My family is proud!) Anywho, we, as most brothers closer in age, did NOT get along as kids. We fought all the time. (Hate is a strong word, but I might use it here!) When he was 16 (making me 12), my mom let him host his 1st “boy/girl” party. I was PUMPED…that is, until I found out that I wasn’t invited! No hanging out with “older women”, no being one of the “big kids”, and worst of all, none of the great snacks my mom purchased for the event! (We basically NEVER had GOOD snacks at my house. Everything was…you know…HEALTHY! Ugh! It makes me shudder just to think about it!) So my buddy and I concocted a plan. A more devious, vile plan was never wrought! It was the pure incarnation of evil…AND a pretty clever bit of revenge for a 12-year old who wasn’t big enough to physically fight back with his 16-year old brother! Here’s what we did- before everyone got there, but AFTER my mom put the food out, we took the dog (Hans, a VERY LARGE German Shepherd, NOT the cutesy dog in the pic!) down to the family room and, one by one, let him (ready?) LICK the Fritos, which we then put back in the bowl! Feel free to look back over that, but YEP…you read it right! Right now, you are wondering 2 things: 1) what sort of sick, twisted mind would do such a thing? (Hey, I was 12. Cut me some slack!) And 2) did I ever tell my brother? The answer is “Yes”! I DID in fact tell him…about 15 years later, LONG after the statute of limitations had run out!
     Revenge is an ugly thing, isn’t it? When we’re in the middle of it, it can feel SO good, but when we come out the other side, we feel (hopefully) pretty bad about our behavior. One the one hand, Homer, in The Iliad, said, “Revenge is sweeter far than flowing honey.” One the other hand, Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek.” Where does that leave us? The bottom line is this- You may get some serious satisfaction out of a vengeful act. You may come out of it feeling pretty darn good about what happened. But how do you feel the next day? The next week? The next year? How would you feel if your KIDS knew about it? Life is simply too short to go around harboring such hatred- it REALLY doesn’t impact the other person much at all and it slowly erodes your soul. Carrying some of that around? Let it go! Picture a future pastor letting the dog lick the snacks, and decide that forgiveness is a far better choice! (And be thankful that YOU weren’t at that party!) Have a great day, please share this with your friends, and stick with Jesus!

10 Gallons of Paint in a 5-Gallon Bucket

     My wife says I have bad estimating skills. I think I come by it honestly. Once, my mom was making slaw that she wanted to can. She had a good-sized mixing bowl full of it and asked my engineer dad how many jars she would need. His eyes lit up! He measured the heighth and depth of the bowl, got out the slide rule (no wussy calculator for a REAL engineer!) and began cipherin’- as Jethro Bodine would say! He got done and triumphantly announced that the mixing bowl full of slaw would require 57 quart jars! Now, I am admittedly NO rocket scientist, but 57 quarts? I, on the other hand, will fill a bowl with cereal, then FILL the bowl with milk…so full that it is nearly impossible to actually carry it to the table without spilling it! My older son does the SAME thing! Perhaps it’s genetic…or a “guy” thing!
     I thought about that story today because I am currently trying to fit 10 gallons of paint in a 5-gallon bucket- I have more things to do than I have hours in the day in which to do them! Ever feel that way? Ever look at the mountainous “to do” list in front of you and wonder how in the world it could EVER get done? Of course you have…your human. (Right?) All of this wonderful modern technology (which I LOVE, by the way!) was supposed to make our lives easier. Instead, it simply frees up more time to put more things on our plates. Between work demands, kids going every which way, and personal/community commitments, we meet ourselves coming and going. Then we wonder why we have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight, and no time to breath!
     In response to the hectic pace of life in the 21st century, I have 2 thoughts:
1) the only way to survive in this climate is to prioritize your day, your week, your life. We get SO caught up in the urgent, we lose sight of the important. SOMETIMES those 2 are the same thing- often they are not! What HAS to be done, what NEEDS to be done, what simply nags at you that could wait? My suggestion- make sure you leave some time for God and your family. If everything else falls apart, those are the 2 that will remain. They should be THE most important things in your life- and in THAT order, too! If you place God 1st, everything else seems to fall into place.
2) To quote that great theologian Bobby McFerrin, don’t worry, be happy. May sound “Pollyanna-ish” but worry simply doesn’t do ANYTHING constructive. Matthew 6:27-30 says, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” Let go of the stress that eats you up inside, and replace it with hope in tomorrow, with trust in God. You just might be amazed at how awesome life can be if you do it! Have a great day, please share this with your friends, and stick with Jesus!

MonsterQuest Quatre: Chester Goes AWOL

     Several people have asked over the past few days- what became of Chester?  In case you’re just joining me, Chester is the beast (ostensibly a squirrel) who was lurking about in the shadows of my church. Like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, no one has actually seen the illusive creature, but forensic evidence of his existence has been impossible to deny. SO…last Friday I set a trap (humane, thank you very much) for him in the basement, baited with yummy-looking peanuts. And I waited- even driving to the church at odd hours of the day and night to check the trap because I didn’t want him to spend too long with food or water. (I know, I know- it’s JUST a squirrel. I can’t help it! I MUST have “SUCKER” written across my forehead!) Thus far, Chester has proved to be a crafty adversary- NO signs of him and NO disturbing of the aforementioned peanuts. He’s either pulled a D.B. Cooper (look it up) and gone deep, DEEP, DEEP “underground”, or he slipped out the way he came in (which, by the way, I also can’t figure out!) and has been telling great tales of life on the “inside” around the nightly squirrel campfire. So- score at the half: Chester- 1, pastor- 0! The trap remains sets, I continue to check it, and Chester probably sits in a tree somewhere in town having a good laugh at my expense!
     As elusive as Chester has proved to be, I find for many hope is even more elusive. In the midst of an economy that seems to be crashing down around us, in the midst of a dramatic increase in violent crime, in the midst of a society that seems to reward “bad” behavior, hope is a scarce commodity- highly valued but hard to find. So, where DO we find our hope? Where CAN we turn when the going gets tough? Our jobs won’t save us, our 401K’s won’t save us, the government won’t save us, even our devilishly good looks and sparkling personalities won’t save us!! Our help comes in the name of the Lord, Who made the heavens and the earth. Our help comes in the name of Lord, Who shows us the path of life. Our help comes in the name of the Lord, in Whose presence fullness of joy, in Whose right hand are pleasures forevermore. What an AMAZING promise that is! Our help, our HOPE, come from God. While the world around us is often like trying to grab hold of vapor, God is steadfast and constant. How’s your week going? Feeling a little hopeless? Do 2 things for me: 1) think about Chester getter the better of a pastor with a Master’s Degree and get a good laugh at my expense about my inability to outsmart a woodland creature AND 2) take time to think through and pray about the fact that God is the one Who can and will sustain you in times of trouble! Have a great day, share this with your friends, and stick with Jesus!

The Life of Riley

     When I announced, at the age of 35, that I was going into the ministry, my then 9-year old son said, “Awesome!” Thinking that he had some sort of theological epiphany, I encouraged him to say more about why he thought that would be awesome. His reply? “You only work ONE day a week!” Yep…that’s right! I only work for a few hours on Sunday morning and the rest of the week I watch soap aperas and eat bon-bons with my feet up- what a life! Actually the ministry is few very ODD profession in many ways. I remember in my younger days swearing that I would NEVER have a job where I had to work a split shift. So what do I do? I have my mid-life crisis a bit early, quit my job, willingly go to seminary, spend three years as a full-time student, full time parent/husband, and nearly full-time pastor (almost killing myself in the process!), just so I can…wait for it…work split shifts! I spend mornings in the office, followed by afternoons either at home working on the computer or out making calls. THEN, I often go back to church at night for meetings, counseling, rehearsal, etc. Never work a split shift, huh? I have learned this- DON’T tell God what you’re NOT going to do…unless of course you REALLY want to end up doing it! You may have noticed that, despite my claim that this is a DAILY blog, nothing got posted yesterday, NOT coincidentally Sunday! First- I had the best of intentions! But the road to…where is that?…is paved with good intentions! Between a full morning at church, an afternoon with our Senior Citizens group, and an evening at the hospital with a young parishioner, life just…got in the way, as it is oft to do!
     Does that ever happen to you? You start the day with the best laid plans, yet when your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, you realize that most of those plans still reside solely on your to-do list, unchecked and unfinished. When that happens, you have to evaluate WHY that’s the case. If they remain undone because you simply didn’t feel like it, that’s one things to consider. However, if they reamain undone because other equally important things came up that required you attention…go with the flow. A plan is great, but if you’re not flexible, life is really hard! As I say in church (almost every Sunday), “The bulletin is JUST a suggestion!” This week, start each day with a plan- but be open to God nudging you in a different direction.
     I will TRY to post every day- even Sundays, so please keep coming back! If you haven’t already, you can subscrice to this blog, become a follower of this blog, or email me directly. All the links are on the main page. I would love to hear from you! Nothing new from Chester the squirrel, but keep checking back- if a rodent story breaks, you’ll be the first to know! Have a great day and stick with Jesus!

MonsterQuest Part Trois: the Origin of Chester

Yesterday, I shared that a parishioner was bringing in a trap that I could use to catch the elusive creature (probably of the squirrel variety) that is stalking my church. I had some concerned citizens worrying about the nature of the aforementioned trap…so here it is! A catch-and-release trap, so that this mythical beast, if caught, can be freed unhurt to the wilds of British Columbia (or our town park, whichever is closer!), safe and unharmed! I also had a question as to why I named this beast Chester. Well…let me tell you the story! (There’s ALWAYS a story!) About four years ago, our next-door neighbor showed up one rainy Sunday afternoon with “something for my son”- turned out to be a baby squirrel in a box! He had apparently fallen out of a tree in the rain and was quite unhappy about that fact. Our neighbor clearly surveyed the situation, weighed all available options, and did the only logic thing he could do- dump the squirrel on the pastor’s kids! So here we were with a squirrel. He was so little we were afraid he wouldn’t make it on his own (yeah, I know, it’s a SQUIRREL! Ruins my carefully crafted “tough-guy” image, doesn’t it?!), so we brought him in the garage, where it was a little warmer and a lot drier. My kids then did what kids have done in this situation since the dawn of time- they named him- Chester, therefore making it infinitely harder to actually DO anything with the squirrel! So we tried to take care of Chester, the newest member of our family, that rainy Sunday afternoon. I called a few people who I thought might be able to help…I was wrong! Then, the rain stopped. AND…Chester seems to perk up quite a bit. I knew we couldn’t keep a wild squirrel in our garage (I mean, I was born at night…but it wasn’t LAST night!), so I convinced the kids that Chester was ready to leave the nest- metaphorically speaking. We would release him in the back yard, sing a few verses of “Born Free”, and watch while he happily assimilated with the several dozen other squirrels who were already residents of my back yard! We took the box out there, carefully…got…Chester out, put him down, and waited. Nothing. He looked at us as if to say, “Well? What are YOU looking at? What exactly do you expect ME to do?” So we started walking toward the house…and Chester started following us! Eventually, our neighbors got to see a grown man with a Master’s Degree and his two kids RUN circles around the house trying to get away from a little squirrel! Eventually, we lost him! Job well done, high fives all around, it’s Miller time! (Since I don’t drink, however, it turned out to be Swiss Miss time!) That was great…until the next morning! We were awakened by Chester, sitting on our front porch, yelling for my son! (No, I’m NOT kidding!) Chester even tried to follow my son to school, but was thwarted by a light rain. So, he camped out…UNDER our van! I got ready to go to work, but didn’t want to run over Chester, and was afraid the sound of the van starting would scare him, so I PUSHED the van from over the top of him! (ANY shred of that tough guy image previously mentioned? Absolutely shot!) So I’m trying to leave, and the squirrel is just sitting in the cold rain, looking abandoned by his new family. SO…I got the box back out, determined to take him to the local park and set him free once and for all! I mean, come on- I have big, important things to do! Great- except once I got to the park, I didn’t have the heart to actually let him go! Too cold! Too wet! So- I took him to church with me! And he stayed there all day long! And people came in and said things like, “I see you have a squirrel in a box on your desk!” “Yes, and his name is Chester!” “Oh! Well…I had an uncle named Chester once.” And they would wander off, trying to imagine any earthly reason why the Bishop would send a crazy person to pastor their church! What eventually happened to Chester? Later that night, the kids and I drove him to the University of Illinois’ Animal Clinic and PAID to have them take him! (I just MUST have “sucker” absolutely tattooed across my forehead! Got any swamp land you need to unload? Apparently I’m your guy!) We have reminisced MANY times about Chester over the past few years- wondering where he went, if he found a cute girl squirrel, settled down and raised a family, if he was even a HE to begin with! (Chesterina?)
     Which brings me right back to the humane trap (didn’t think I’d get back, did you?) that is currently baited with peanuts in the basement of my church. (I checked it at 9PM last night- nothing yet!) Could the beast roaming the hallowed halls of my church be Chester, finally come home? (Hey, don’t laugh! The average lifespan of a squirrel is 6 years; Chester would be a relatively young man…er…squirrel of 4 now! It could happen!) Let me say again, they did NOT cover pest control in seminary. We talked alot about  old, dead white guys and big, fancy, multisyllabic words that no one has ever heard of nor will I ever actually use again…BUT…we never covered what to do with a large rodent in your basement! (Higher education is sorely lacking, I fear!) I will keep you posted on the fate of Chester, and maybe tell you the story of how we accidentally rescued a dog belonging to a member of the St. Louis Rams football team! (No foolin’!) Have a great day, tell your friends about my blog, and stick with Jesus!

MonsterQuest Part Deux: the Rise of Chester

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the illusive, possibly mythical creature that seems to be roaming the hallowed halls of my church. Witnesses tell of strange noises, odd markings and signs, unearthly wails from behind the walls…OK…maybe I exaggerate JUST a bit! Bottom line is…we seem to have a squirrel in the building. While the building isn’t huge, it’s big enough and old enough that there are nearly an infinite number of nooks and crannys this thing could hide in! (By the way- have you ever wondered what a “cranny” is? I believe I understand the concept of “nook” just fine, but “cranny” escapes me!) So, yesterday, the custodian came to me (unknowing of what had happened, “critter-wise”, in the past few days) and told me that he thinks there’s an animal in the building. Turns out, a LARGE bag of unpopped popcorn in the basement was simply too much for this beast to pass up! Meanwhile, the animal control people are apparently busier than I would imagine, because I can’t get them to even return my calls, let alone come get this thing! (I’m considering naming the squirrel- Chester- and making him the church mascot! Perhaps we could incorporate him into our church logo! The slogan would be- ready?- “we’re nuts for Jesus”!) So now, I have a parishioner bringing a raccoon trap to the church that I get to bait and load! (They did NOT cover this in seminary! I want a partial tuition refund!) I pray that I catch the beast, but then I wonder…great, you’ve caught it- now what?!
     Life is just chocked FULL of little roadblocks and detours…isn’t it? You can either decide that God must have it in for you, pull the covers back over your head and never get up, OR you can see the humor in life, pull your self up by the bootstraps (frankly, MY boots HAVE no visible straps that I can see!), put one foot in front of the other, and tackle the day! Life is simply TOO short and TOO full of potential to waste it whining and moaning about the small stuff…and really, it’s almost ALL small stuff, isn’t it? Have a great day, subscribe to my blog, tell your friends about it, and stick with Jesus!

Porch Ninja

     I don’t know about where YOU are, but where I am…the leaves are already coming down. I could leaf-blow my driveway and front porch several times a day and still not make a dent! My 9-year old and I were walking from the car (OK- let’s be both honest AND precise here; NOT car but soccer mom van!) to the house yesterday. As we crossed the long front porch, with the leaves crunching underfoot no matter where you stepped, he said, “Dad, you sure couldn’t be a ninja on THIS porch right now!” I envisioned these highly trained ninjas, in full stealth mode, bypassing all the high-tech security at the secret installation…only to be thwarted by a ground cover of leaves! (Who’da thunk it?!) Fall is my favorite time of the year- the slight chill in the air, the beautiful colors on the trees (and porches!), the marvelous smells in the air. Fall, of course, is the time when the earth begins to enter “standby mode”- it begins to shut down non-essential systems in anticipation of the coming winter. Circle the wagons and hunker down, in other words. It’s OK for the earth to do that…but we shouldn’t follow suit. We look for so many excuses to not be as faithful to God as we need to be. “Well, summer is bad…we travel! And fall is bad, school’s back in session and the crops are coming in. And of course winter is bad, because…it’s WINTER. and Spring is bad because we want to get out and do things after that long winter! But other than those times…I’ll be faithful to God!” Is there a season I don’t know about? Was I asleep in Mrs. Nielson’s 2nd Grade Class the day we learned about that illusive but highly sought after 5th season? The seasons of our life (literally and figuratively) come and go, but God does not. God is constant…our commitment to God should be the same. A life lived in Jesus doesn’t have to be dull, boring, lifeless. It can be THE MOST dynamic thing you’ve ever experienced- beyond your wildest imagination (and as Han Solo says, “I dunno- I can imagine quite a bit!”) Thanks for reading my blog daily. Fill out the poll. Become a follower (it sounds so Jonestown-ish, doesn’t it?). Come back tomorrow. Tell a friend. have a great day! Stick with Jesus!