Sunday, 23 November 2008

Chasing Lions

Through a link on, I revisited the book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. David Mays provides a great summary on one of his Book Notes pages.

The base biblical story is about a man who follows a lion into a pit on a snowy day and kills the lion. Apologies to my lion-loving sister. The story in Second Samuel 23 is part of a series of stories of men who faced their fears and took great risks, usually to accomplish things that would glorify God.

From that little story, the book expands the theme to all the ways God brings us to the right place at the right time to prepare us for what is ahead and move us towards our destiny.

"But here's the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time." Those times are often very difficult and way out of our comfort zone.

photoKnowing that faith involves risk and uncertainty, we can have some measure of peace and confidence in the most trying of circumstances.

You may have had some challenging experiences. I have certainly had a few - many more severe than I ever would have imagined ten years ago. But I'm writing and you're reading. So we have survived to tell about it. And hopefully we have learned a thing or two along the way. And I have also lived to tell the story of how God has blessed me in ways I could not have imagined ten years ago.

Even when the way is foggy, and it often is in my experience, God calls us to move forward, taking baby steps if necessary. We don't always know what is ahead. But daily we have choices of what to do with "today". Are we willing to let God work in us and through us today? As we are willing, open, and obedient, greater opportunities await.

I pray God will give us all a vision of how we may impact the world and impact eternity. And I pray we will persevere when that stretching, growing, and testing tempts us to give up. As the Apostle Paul often prayed, God's strength and peace to you. He is able.

Just a few quotes from the book:

"We're inspired by people who face their fears and chase their dreams. What we fail to realize is that they are no different from us." (16)

"Impossible odds set the stage for amazing miracles. That is how God reveals his glory--and how He blesses you in ways you never could have imagined." (22)

"Satan has two primary tactics when it comes to neutralizing you spiritually: discouragement and fear." (51)

"Lion chasers are more afraid of lifelong regrets than temporary uncertainty." "Embracing uncertainty is one dimension of faith." (81)

"The more you're willing to risk, the more God can use you. And if you're willing to risk everything, then there is nothing God can't do in you and through you." (102)

It is often the fear of foolishness that holds us back. "Faith is the willingness to look foolish." "Noah looked foolish building an ark in the desert." (149) "The greatest breakthroughs, miracles, and turning points in Scripture can be traced back to someone who was willing to look foolish." (150)

"Conforming to Christ results in nonconformity." (151)

Seven skills to be a lion chaser: "You have to start by trying to comprehend the infiniteness of God so that you can believe He can help you to defy the odds. You have to face your fears, or they'll hold you back forever. You have to learn to reframe your problems through Scripture reading, prayer, and worship. Then you'll shift your perspective so that your problem becomes less significant and God's greatness becomes more evident. And remember, you must take risks. That is the essence of faith. Then you're ready to seize the opportunity. But you have to be able to see it to seize it. That means getting yourself in tune with the Holy Spirit. You have to listen to His still, small voice prompting you and believe that He is setting you up for success. And finally, you have to accept that you're going to look foolish sometimes." "These skills are a package deal." "What lion is God calling you to chase?" (168-69)

Please visit the David Mays site for more quotes or go buy the book.

Bridge photo is copyright© 2006 Ronald G. Hedberg. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Responding to Injustice

Some months ago, I wrote a little in my blog about a situation involving injustice related to a corporation. In that case, the main response by the people in the story was exposing the injustice to the media and others. Eventually that approach resulted in changed behavior by the company. But the motives and attitudes of all involved were often quite negative.

Part of the intent of that article was that it would lead into a short series of articles, or one long article, regarding injustice. Beyond any interest in the topic itself, I know that many people do not understand my response to a particular situation I have been in for many years. Each situation is unique. Mine goes far beyond any inconvenience or blow to my pride. This injustice has affected many people in negative ways and put lives at risk. Others want to see the injustice end too.

Most people, well truthfully, probably everybody has recommended I react with whatever (legal) means necessary to stop that injustice. But I have chosen a different path this time, which I will explain later.

All four of the options I will present may seem appropriate at different times. And there is biblical basis for at least three of them. But for these past years I have taken the less-traveled route.

Because this topic is somewhat sensitive, it has seemed there is never really a “good” time to write about it. Most of this has been in my head for several years. I jotted down a few notes nearly a year ago. I have added a few paragraphs here and there in recent weeks. Perhaps what I write will help a few people. And, selfishly, it will probably be good for me to finally write it out. So here goes…

What follows is part of my painful journey to mercy.

Injustice in Our World

Much of this world is good. But still, in a sinful, fallen world, injustice exists in many situations. Some are personal situations with friends, family and strangers. Some cases involve corporations and other organizations. And some injustice is related to countries and other political powers.

It is wise to examine a situation. Perceived injustice may not truly be wrong-doing once we have a full understanding of the situation and perspectives. For the purposes of this article, I will be discussing what most would consider true injustices.

Will it matter if we spend a few moments considering the injustice around us? Time will tell. It is true that some injustice will prevail until Jesus comes back. In the meantime, we can each make an effort to stop injustice where we are able. For the Christian, there is a responsibility to invite God’s kingdom (kingship) to come and his will be done. We should pursue God ruling on earth as it is in heaven. And in heaven, there is pure justice.

Injustice exists today. One way or another, we all respond.

Option 1: Exposing the Truth

One way to respond to injustice is to focus on exposing the truth about a situation. Light is used to expose what is happening in darkness.

Some people will use exposure in a mean-spirited way. But exposure can also be the most loving thing a person can do. The motives of the light-bearer may actually be honorable. Shedding light on a situation can truly be a good thing – for everybody involved.

A few guidelines you may wish to consider regarding exposure:

  • Past wrongs for which there has been true repentance do not need to be brought up again. If there was genuine sorrow and changed behavior over the past action, then silence may be more appropriate. If you have forgiven them, regardless of whether they had any remorse, then your best action may be to just confirm that forgiveness and let it go, freeing yourself in the process.

  • Related to the previous item, ongoing actions may be treated differently from one-time actions in the past. Ongoing actions usually indicate there has been no true repentance since the activity continues. The continuing actions declare their unwillingness to call it “wrong”.

  • Facts are facts. We are not required to lie to cover up the truth of their actions.

  • Consider the audience. The responses of people vary. Is exposure likely to lead to positive results?

For many people, their first reaction to the thought of actions exposed is negative. Quite often, but not always, our reactions to exposure reflect our view of God – especially when he reveals truth about us. And, to some extent, our reaction is related to our view of authority figures in our life. Are we in a habit of hiding, or perhaps a perspective of shame?

Much of our reaction to exposure is assuming the motives of the person or people exposing us. Do they want to hurt us? Do they want us to feel bad about ourselves? Or perhaps they have our best interests in mind, and what is good for the people around us as well. Exposure can be the most loving thing a person can do for us. What do we believe about their character?

Part of exposure is understanding the true situation. Let’s look at injustice in general.

Like the majority of sins, most injustice is related to pride and self-centeredness. One person or group prioritizes their wishes far above the well-being of others. The focus is on taking and taking advantage for their own gain at the expense of others.

Intentionally or not, many continue the self-centered path they have created for themselves. Each action reinforces a habit. And the habit more and more becomes a core value of who they are.

Unjust actions happen. But we cannot always assume the thoughts and motives behind those actions. Some people wish to hurt others, for a variety of reasons that are often related to past experiences. Some act out of fear or defensiveness. Some work against anything good God wants to do in the world and for any way they can derail God’s destiny and purpose for people. Some are ignorant of the impact of their actions. Some are proud of their actions and make sure the public records declare forever how they demanded to be unjust with others. They apparently want injustice to be part of their legacy. And many, many are fooled.

Satan is often described as a deceiver, the Father of Lies, being slick, crafty, and similar terms. Even smart people get fooled. One example is that Satan will fool us into thinking unjust selfish actions will bring us happiness, peace, and satisfaction. But they don’t. A lust for power or control is never satisfied. It always wants more. Greed seeks to take and accumulate. But most American suburban homes testify that the more we get, the more we want. Greed just feeds more greed. And these self-centered attitudes will never bring about any sense of peace or long-term satisfaction. Going that path is buying into a lie. It brings honor to no one.

Additionally, most of these unjust actions have immediate and long-term consequences. God has said that no greedy person will ever see the kingdom of God. Jesus said we cannot serve both God and mammon (material things and money). The self-centered approaches of injustice are incompatible with God’s ways of love and investing in things that will effect eternity. A prideful self-centered approach to life and relationships puts a person at high risk of losing a chance at some of the greatest things in life – for now and for eternity. Because of the negative consequences of acting unjustly, a person may even choose to do right for selfish reasons. It is truly in their best interest to start doing what is fair and just and right.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. Those are the actions of many injustices as well. The stealing is not always monetary or possessions. The killing is not always a person’s physical life. But injustice can attempt to steal dignity, kill relationships, destroy hope, and have other damaging results. Satan is pleased when his values have been demonstrated through an injustice.

I have seen highly-respected people dishonor themselves by choosing unjust actions. And in the process, they have tossed aside their good reputation. They have indirectly "corrected" people who once associated them with positive moral values like fairness, faithfulness and kindness.

If a person is opposed to having the actions exposed, it often means they feel they have something to hide, something for which they are not entirely proud. But, if it is wrong, why do they keep doing it? There is a reason forgiveness is so intertwined with repentance in the Christian faith. If we are unwilling to take steps to stop a behavior, we must feel it is okay. And if it is okay, there is no need for forgiveness. God offers forgiveness when we honestly say an action is wrong and take even baby steps away from that action towards new behavior. If a person continues injustice, they most-likely feel the action is “okay”. And, in that case they should have no qualms about having their action exposed.

Sometimes just sharing the reality of a situation will prompt a person or group to reconsider their hurtful actions. If they have bought into some of the lies, they may be open to some loving encouragement to find a route out of those old patterns of behavior.

But, one of the downsides of this approach of exposure is that it can imply the person or group cannot or will not consider a change in behavior on their own. Someone has to inform them and perhaps persuade them to do what is right. Even if motives are 100% pure, on the receiving end of this exposure it could be perceived as a dishonoring insult. On the other hand, if they are truly willing to change behavior without prompting, let them prove it in their actions.

Despite the risks, in many cases exposure and shedding light on an unjust situation can result in changed behavior and an end to the injustice.

Option 2: Confrontation and Force

Another option is to attempt to change behavior by force. Use all means available to correct the action. Actions are used to limit the offending behavior and encourage beneficial behavior.

As much as people may hate war and personal confrontations, the simple truth is that some people, organizations and countries will not change behavior unless they are forced to do so, or at least they are strongly persuaded to change. Not everybody will change behavior through a conversation. Even strong words may be ineffective.

Most parents understand this. They have had to use force to stop a toddler from damaging behavior like running into traffic or hurting someone else. The most loving action by the parent is to use (nearly) any means necessary to rein in the hurtful behavior. Words can be ineffective at times. Action is best for the child and other people as well.

If we are honest, most of us are also grateful the government uses force to “bind up” and restrict negative behavior through jails, prisons and military action. Through that limiting behavior, they provide freedom to the majority of people for positive behavior. Binding, the negative, encourages and “loosens” positive activities. The concept of binding and loosing is in the Bible as well regarding binding the power of Satan and his demons and the power of sin. And that helps free us to live the life God intends for us. There are numerous examples in Old Testament times of God restricting the behavior of a ruler or nation for the overall long-term best interests of the world. Sometimes binding, restricting and stopping of certain actions are necessary for the greater good.

How does a person use force to change behavior? Individually, in America we are largely limited to using the enforcement of law to bring justice. Like many others, I feel there are way too many frivolous and outrageous lawsuits. But there are times when the courts are our best option for bringing about justice.

But proceed with caution…

Consider before a lawsuit the chances of success. Judges and jurisdictions vary. Consider the costs and potential costs to carry this out. Monetary costs are just the beginning. Also consider the risks. Will a lawsuit bring honor or dishonor to you and others. Will it communicate life or communicate death? Will it bring light or darkness to the world? Who will be most pleased by bringing a lawsuit, God or Satan?

One of drawbacks of this forceful approach is that there can be implied dishonoring. Using force implies the person or group will not respond to talk. It implies they are so unwilling or unable to change behavior that they must be forced to do what is right. They are unwilling to do what is right on their own. That is not always entirely truthful.

In the end, getting our way through force or confrontation may stop the injustice. But it may be at the expense of the honor of those who have been committing the unjust acts.

Option 3: Giving Up with Silence and Apathy

I hesitate to even write about this option for responding to injustice. But many choose this route. Because of past experiences, fears, insecurities, and other reasons, it is easy to give up hope that any action will have an effect on stopping injustice. So a person can resign to surrender, passivity, hopelessness, and eventually apathy. They will learn to stop caring and stop hoping anything can change in the situation. I cannot recommend this approach. And I am not aware of any positive biblical example to support this. But, still, it is understandable that people will choose silence as their response to injustice.

Similar to the other options, there is some dishonor with this approach also. Our resignation usually comes because we have given up hope they will ever change their behavior. We have given up hope that any action on our part could nudge them in the right direction. Whether due to stubbornness, ignorance, weakness, or some other reason, we conclude they will not change any time soon.

In addition, there is some dishonor of ourselves as we give up hope. We may lose any sense our prayers or words or actions can influence the situation – and sadly, perhaps any situation we consider. Giving up hope isn’t a “good” choice. But it is still understandable that people choose that approach at times.

Option 4: Intentional Mercy

From the outside, showing mercy can look an awful lot like giving up. It may appear there is a lack of action. And I can understand if people are perplexed by this path some of us have taken.

The reality is that showing mercy can be the most challenging response of any option. It is difficult, contrary to the ways of the world, and can be emotionally stressful. Rather than inaction, a more appropriate description may be aggressive mercy.

A biblical example is Jesus. Laying aside all of his options for a power play against those trying to crucify him, he willingly chose mercy for a greater long-term benefit for others.

There are times to fight. But there are also times to turn the other cheek. There are times to give to those who steal and take from you. It doesn’t make sense in the natural that we should do this. But responding with mercy can disrupt Satan’s control of a situation and our lives.

God enables Christians to forgive as they have been forgiven. He enables us to show mercy and grace because we have received mercy and grace. When we are weak and hesitate, God gives strength in our weaknesses to show love. We can attempt to honor people without condoning their actions.

Sometimes what we give people has little relation to what they deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting good things we do not deserve. In both cases, they often say more about the giver than the recipient. God does it perfectly. Most of us are still learning. I have a long ways to go.

Some people need a strong rebuke to consider changing their ways. For others, loving kindness and mercy may draw them towards repentance and a new way of living.

When confronted with the unnatural mercy, people may finally see real-life examples. So this is what God’s unconditional love looks like. So this is what God’s mercy looks like. This is what a person can choose when God enables them to do things they probably could not do on their own.

We can give opportunities for them to keep or regain their honor (preferably where it will appear it was on their own). That has the potential for them to redeem their reputation.

If the unjust repent by changing their ways, along with restitution, then everybody wins and everybody receives a measure of honor. Contrary to the combative route where there are always winners and losers, with mercy resulting in changed behavior, we can truly have a win-win situation. And God and his values will be honored as well.

But what are the odds of success? The end results of this approach vary. Some will change their behavior immediately. Some may make changes years later. And some will not change in our lifetime. That is their choice. And they will face any short and long-term consequences for that choice. Those of us on the receiving end of injustice may have to wait a long time until justice prevails. And that may be costly.

But for those of us choosing to show mercy, there is a peace in choosing to love. There is a clear conscience when we try to bring light and love into a situation. There will be no regrets.

There are many options in responding to injustice in our world. I hope you will consider the sometimes painful path of mercy.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Prophecy Regarding Shake-Up of American Finances in September 2008

Most prophetic words in the Christian church are regarding what is and was. But occasionally there is insight into what is coming in the future. The news headlines of late September and October regarding financial turmoil make this prophetic word quite interesting.

Context: In July of 2008, the U.S. financial industry appeared to be stable and healthy. Some have regarded Minnesota as a "threshing floor" state spiritually.

Prophetic Word from Chuck Pierce
Regarding Shaking of America in September 2008
Delivered July 18 at Redeeming Love Church in Maplewood, Minnesota

Prophetic word (from the perspective of God):

"For I would say to you, beginning September 17th, through the 26th, be prepared, for I will begin to jar and rearrange what needs to be rearranged. I say I come to this threshing floor state to announce that I will begin at harvest time to shake this nation again.

I say to you, this is my time and my doing and between now and then, I will start jarring the false altars that have been built up - and the altars that have contended against the power and blessing of my people.

I say to you, I have a people now that are crying day and night for my presence. And I say to you, the presence war is on. And the threshing floor must be prepared in this nation for the presence war. For I say to you, I will win this war."


Earlier in the evening, there were messages about short-term and long-term changes coming, not just in politics with the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, but big changes and shifting coming in economic areas. The majority of the evening was about topics generally regarded as more spiritual.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Gauges Gone Wild

A few days after blogging about where we put our trust, I got a real-life example. To me, it is fairly reasonable to expect your car to start each morning, especially in the summer. But sometimes things don't go quite as planned.

Thursday morning I got quite a surprise. The car doors unlocked okay. But from then on, it was strange. The gauges went wild when I turned the key or opened the door or did anything that might trigger a communication with the battery. The engine did not turn over even one rotation. The speedometer went from zero to 140 and back within a second. The tachometer and other gauges behaved wildly as well. It was very strange.

The car had been working just fine the day before. So this was quite a surprise. After a bit of Internet research, I read that one person claimed this was "normal" behavior for a dead battery for this car. It would have been nice to have some advanced warning with a slow cranking start or something like that. But no, not this time.

I cleaned the battery posts that were still pretty clean. Some neighbors were kind enough to give the battery a "jump". So then at least I could drive to an auto parts store. I let it charge for several minutes. At the auto parts store I turned it off and tried to restart the engine. The same wild behavior returned. Unfortunately, my battery was kind of pricey as auto makers try to make everything special. Fortunately, I was able to replace the battery myself (unlike simple tasks like replacing headlights that now require a dealer to get to the headlight bulb).

I have now waited a few days to see if the charging system is functional. So far the car still starts. So the battery replacement seems to have been the ticket. But that was an extra $100 I didn't plan to spend this month.

What can I learn? Worldly assumptions are not always trustworthy. Certainly we need to place some trust in everyday life. But a fallen world sometimes fails.

God was gracious enough to not let the battery fail until payday when I had a chance to buy a battery.

I am reminded of the Biblical passages e.g. Matthew 7:15-23 where Jesus talked about various miracles and powerful signs. In some cases, the actions were basically useless without the power of God and relationship with God. If we are disconnected from the power source, we can turn the key or remote or flip any other switch. And the results will have little fruit. Once we are connected to the Power Source, then our actions can truly make a difference. And we have a more accurate gauge of our impact.

Stay connected to the power source. Stay connected to the vine that brings life. A car can fulfill its purpose and destiny once it is rightly connected to a power source. And so can we.

Sonic Boom

If you watch certain TV shows and channels, you have most likely seen the advertising for Sonic Drive-In restaurants. Until recently there was no opportunity to visit one in this area of Minnesota. I did visit one in Iowa a few years ago though.

Recently, a Sonic Drive-In opened in Saint Paul. At least three weeks later, we went there around five on a Saturday afternoon, shortly after a storm blew through. At least three weeks after the grand opening, there was still a long wait. Traffic control personnel were hired to manage the demand. If you wanted a drive-in spot, you had to go to a staging area down the block in another parking lot and wait in line for at least 20 minutes.

Sonic had found a demand. It may be mostly driven by curiosity at this point. The long-term success has not been determined yet. But, by most accounts, their entrance into the Twin Cities was a huge success.

They are just fast food. But Sonic offers something new. They offer a wide spectrum of drinks and desserts. Their meals have a few unique offerings as well.

So what can we learn from this? If you are hungry and near Saint Paul, you may wish to check them out. Their TV advertising built a pent-up demand. It wasn't until they opened a store that they understood the payoff. Our efforts, as well, can be very productive with fruit we have yet to see.

But mostly, from my perspective, Sonic offered some new options and possibilities. Churches and businesses take heed. If you offer something new and at least partially innovative, people may be willing to at least check it out. Obviously, people were not totally content with their food options in the Twin Cities. And, since about 75% do not attend church on a given Sunday, they aren't too excited about their Christian worship options either.

Fresh approaches and fresh attitudes have a chance of meeting people where they are at. There are signs there is pent-up demand for churches or Christian fellowships that have fresh and innovative ways of touching lives. Dare to be different. Dare to take some risks. You never know. You may touch off a Sonic boom that impacts dozens or hundreds of lives.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Out of Balance

If you've read leadership books or articles or even some of the popular magazines in the past few decades, you have most-likely read about keeping balance in your life. Conferences and corporate training repeat the balance mantra as well. So how are you doing with your balanced life?

Fortunately, some people are finally brave enough to question the balance goal. As Keith Hammonds said in Fast Company, "balance is bunk".

As I listened to the Deadly Viper Character Assassins book a while back, it was good to hear others sharing the opinion I had had for years. The topic is addressed under The Assassin of the Headless Sprinting Chicken chapter at about 1:09 into the free audio book.

The idea of balance often ends up being a picture of spinning plates. We try to keep everything in life going strong all at the same time, all in the same week, even all in the same day. Trying to have balance this way is exhausting....and frustrating.

Instead, look at your entire life's portfolio. There are seasons for emphasizing different things. Be content in that.

Rather than focusing on balance, the focus should be on priorities. If we have some of our priorities clear, then decisions about time and resources become easier.

Can you think of anyone who had a big impact on the world who was also balanced in all areas of their life? It is doubtful. Being perfectly balanced can mean being mediocre and boring. At best, we are good in several different areas. But it is doubtful any balanced person is ever great in anything.

Those who have truly changed the world were passionate and focused. Those who are passionate usually have to let other areas of their lives become less than good or approved as acceptable. They have let some areas of their lives "go" so they could focus on their passion and what they do best. And with that focus and passion, they impacted lives.

Some balance is good. But I hope I always have enough passion to courageously make a difference. Live with passion. And see God do wonderful things through you.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Hastings and Mississippi Restoration

Last week we took in some free events down at Hastings Rivertown Days. We saw Dock Dogs competition with dogs jumping for distance after some toy or decoy. It was kind of cool. I'm not a dog lover. So I couldn't imagine watching the same thing for two full days. But obviously some people love it and travel great distances to participate.

We also saw some powerboat races on the Mississippi. That was kind of neat. The biggest race with the most boats ended up being cancelled. They had run out of time with their allotted river closing permit. I should probably blog that separately. But basically, they lost the opportunity because of too much hesitation. Occasionally we may miss out on opportunities as well due to hesitation. Sometimes we get a second chance later. Sometimes we don't.

The National Park Service also provided some river cruises. As we took the short cruise to Prescott, Wisconsin, the park rangers talked briefly of how the Mississippi River from Saint Paul down to Hastings was pretty much dead 50 years ago. Sewage, chemicals, farm field runoff, and other factors had taken their toll. Hardly any fish survived. The report is that a census or count or however they do it found just three fish over many miles of the river. That is pretty bad.

Now the river is returning to life. There are several fish species surviving and thriving. The water is cleaner and safer. The river is slowly returning to some of its former glory.

As I recently read a report on the American church, and particularly mainline denominations, the parallels became clear. The decline of the Mississippi River happened over many years. In the case of the river, much of it came out of self-centeredness, short-term thinking, and a prideful refusal to admit wrong and change.

I will be more merciful with the church. But much of the reason for declining and dying congregations and denominations is due to a refusal to change. Sometimes it also includes some self-centeredness as they structure a church around their own needs and styles rather than selflessly designing a church that will serve and reach today's world.

The revival of the Mississippi came through changed perspectives, values, and behavior. The revival of churches can happen the same way. We need to put aside pride and be open to change. And we must actually make changes that will bring life to our communities. Our communities can start to be well-watered and healthy once the power and love of God begins to flow once again.

And there are some parallels for our personal lives as well. As long as we are alive, there are reasons for hope. And that is especially true if we are willing to change.

Looking at that section of the Mississippi can bring us hope that even decades of decline can be reversed if we are open to change. Repentance, changing our ways, can be the doorway to new life and new possibilities.

If this speaks to you, or your congregation, ask God for revelation of what is going on, the knowledge to know what should change, and the power to make it happen. New life awaits.

Back to College - University of Minnesota

Today was the first official visit to a college my son David is considering. The Institute of Technology at University of Minnesota - Twin Cities hosted this event. There were hundreds of students and parents there considering the college with primarily engineering degrees.

David does great in math and sciences and had an excellent ACT score. I am proud of him for many reasons. But I hesitate to brag about him because he seeks to remain humble. And I respect that. Know that he is one of my heroes.

The gathering today included a lot of smart people. As the program went on I thought from time to time of how I could have chosen certain majors. For some reason or other I did not consider engineering much, even though a friend went down to Milwaukee School of Engineering. Engineering includes math, physics, and technology.

But more than that, much of engineering is designing things that change the world. Some possibilities include dams, bridges, medical devices, heating and cooling systems, more efficient engines, water treatment systems, and new devices and systems that benefit people in some way. In ways we seldom consider, our lives have benefited from the work of engineers. Engineers designed the keyboard and mouse I am using right now.

So? Why should I care? Part of what I saw today was people celebrating who they are. Some may call them nerds or geeks. But they are also people with potential for significant things.

And so are you. Celebrate who you are. The recent teaching series at The House has included talk about seeds and fruitfulness. If you are a peach tree, produce that kind of fruit. If you are a coconut tree, produce that kind of fruit. Don't be jealous of others skills and giftings and personalities. Embrace who you are and be fruitful. Produce fruit from the seed you were designed to be. That is when you are most fruitful and effective.

Some of the engineers and potential engineers have embraced their unique skill set. Have you embraced and celebrated who you are?

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Bet on Carrie Blame

The recent dream was probably triggered by a public athlete talking about bluffing his team.

My thoughts quickly shifted from football to "You're not playing football. You're playing poker!" From there the image was one of gambling. From betting on cards the image quickly shifted to a local horse track that has both horse racing and a card room.

It has been several years since I have been to any horse races. But one of my first thoughts is of all of the unique names of the horses. And in my dream, as soon as the setting switched to a horse track, the word was clear: "Bet on Carrie Blame".

Whoa. I'd never heard that name before. But the words were repeated, "Bet on Carrie Blame".

People bet and place their trust in many different things. They bet on money, possessions, relationships and connections, health, retirement plan, odds, and more. And most people bet on something to influence their eternity after physical death. They bet on good deeds, church attendance, community service, biblical knowledge, and other things.

But the message is clear. Bet on the only one who can consistently help you in both this life and the next. Jesus is the one who willingly carried our blame, the punishment for our own sins. And he is the one that will win in the end. Bet on Carrie Blame.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. ~ Revelation 19:11

Toilet Paper Ministry

As I was listening to a radio show in the car, the speaker talked about our memories. Out of the blue, an old memory came. I hadn’t thought about it for probably decades. So it surprised me.

Many of us have been on the receiving end of hurtful words. Sometimes the words are sincerely hurtful. But other times things are blurted out in moments of anger and frustration. And quite often the speaker did not truly mean the words they spoke.

At the time, the words can be quite painful. But occasionally they are kind of humorous too if they seem out of character for the speaker.

As part of my childhood, someone fairly close called me “ass wipe” on some occasions. I had forgotten about it until it strangely popped backed into memory that recent morning. I am not exactly sure what they meant by the term. But I am pretty sure it wasn’t intended as a compliment. It was kind of out of character for the speaker. So I am guessing they had heard someone else refer to a person with that name.

I am in a different place now with some different perspectives. So now I wonder if it was unintentionally prophetic. Some are pastors, some are apostles, some are teachers, and some are toilet paper. (New Charmin Translation)

What a calling! Toilet paper? Being single, I don’t see butts of others. But, as a father, I had diaper duty a few times in my day, making the baby look "good as new" once again. Generally, people don’t regard rears has the most noble part of the body. Although I do know people who spent huge sums of money to enjoy seeing Brett Favre’s butt (clothed) week after week during games at Green Bay.

Okay, you’re probably thinking my twisted, whirled view is off the deep end this time. Stay with me….please.

Even though it is difficult to understand in the short-term, sometimes our past pains have been preparation for future ministry. God can bring good out of our experiences, both pleasant and painful. And that includes hurtful words.

One of the themes of the popular John Eldredge books is that we be restored to our former glory, that we rejoin the Grand Story. Due to the fall with original sin, we have lost much of our former glory. We were created in God’s image. But sin corrupts and distorts things. As we turn over more of our lives to let God work through us. We become more like him. Some of our glory is restored, even while here on earth.

We were created uniquely. You are so awesome in God’s eyes. Your abilities, gifts, and your life experiences add up to great potential. God sees that potential. He sees the mission and role that only you can fill. Nobody can do your unique ministry better than you.

God has created you for a great mission. And when you are moving in that mission, your glory will be revealed, and his glory will be revealed through you. It is a glorious thing to see someone changing the world, making things on earth as it is in heaven, in ways that fit well with their design and experiences.

Humbly, toilet paper restores part of the body to its original glory. Then that part of the body can play a supporting role for many key parts of the body. Toilet paper brings cleansing.

Perhaps we have a role/roll in helping Christians discover and maintain a life path that is the destiny for which they were created. And when things get a little messy, let us help them clean up the crap and feel loved and respected again. Let us gently restore beauty and dignity to those who are trying, but occasionally fall. Let us be People of the Second Chance.

Uppy! Uppy!

photoUppy, uppy! Carry me, carry me!

Carry me Lord when I am feeling tired.
Carry me when I doubt I can keep up,
Not just with the world,
But also keeping up with all you are doing in the world.
Carry me when I am feeling weak.
Carry me when I feel like giving up.
Carry me when I feel I might run out of hope.

Uppy, uppy!
Hold me close so we can look face to face.
I just want to be in your presence.
Let me see your smile.
Let me physically feel your touch, your presence.
Wrap your arms around me and just hold me.
Help me feel safe and secure in your loving arms.
Let me feel your compassionate love.

Uppy, uppy! Hold me high to see your perspective.
Give me your vision. Give me your long-term view.
Help me see what you see, in today’s reality and
What you see in the possibilities for the future.
Help me see the possibilities for my future.
Give me dreams and visions of your plans for me.
Open my eyes to what is really happening out there.
Open my eyes to what is really happening in me and through me.

Carry me, carry me! Carry me forward to where you are moving.
Carry me to where I can see your power and love at work.
Carry me to places where I will see you as the commander
Of thousands of mighty warrior angels.
Carry me to places that will reveal your glory.
Carry me to where your kingdom has come and is being displayed –
Here on earth as it is in heaven.

Carry me gently. Calm my fears.
Be patient with me. Dry me tears.

Uppy, uppy!
Gently lift me up.
Lovingly hold me.
Boldly carry me where I dare not go alone.
Let me feel your love today.

Uppy, uppy!

Reign Down USA

Talk about a marketing challenge! The theme of the event was basically “come and repent”. That is pretty hard to sell here in America.

There were two places in the northeast Twin Cities showing the simulcast for Reign Down USA. We went to North Heights. I was somewhat surprised nearly 500 people showed up. We broke away from the national show for a while to do our own local thing. I wasn’t sure I agreed with that at the time. But after seeing the full event later on God.TV, it was a good choice.

The main event had star power and was more of a concert than we expected. Locally we went deeper with more prayer time regarding a variety of topics. It was good.

Repentance is basically turning around and going in the opposite direction. It is a change of course.

People don’t like the word “repent” very much. It is difficult for our pride. Some claim that repentance was mostly an Old Testament thing. But Jesus clearly stated that repentance is associated with the “good news” of the gospel. See Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15, 6:12, Luke 13, Acts 11:18, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20, 2 Peter 3:9, and other places.

Even though it is hard, repentance is often the key to moving to something better. We have to be willing to leave something behind to grab hold of the new thing. Most often that letting go includes attitudes and actions. But it can also include letting go of relationships, possessions, hobbies, jobs, and even ministries that do not match God’s plans for us.

Quite often we have actions that are simply wrong. They are not good for us. They do not bring honor to God, others, or even ourselves. We need to stop those and start doing what is right.

Other times we are called to let go of mediocre or even good things to pursue something better. That can be a difficult challenge as well.

Repentance is a gift. It is the start of something good.

Most of us would like to see some changes. Are we willing to change behavior so that the changes become reality? If it is what God wants, he will gladly help us do that.

Carterography Lesson


Over the years I haven’t had enough time one-on-one with my nephews and nieces. A while back it was fun to have some time with my nephew Carter. It was part of his annual trip “up north” with family.

It had been a busy week with some late nights. Even though tired, he was a good trooper and kept his smile. I intentionally included some down time where he could rest in the car and in the late afternoon at home.

We took him hiking on what he called a “professional” hiking trail. It had a few challenges beyond the flat paved trails many people use. He did great and stayed safe. On that particular trail, we also got to learn more about sandstone quarries. So it was educational too.


photoWe had our picnic lunch at a different part of the park with a small waterfall and rock formations. Carter showed his servant heart by clearing the dirt out of a seating area in a rock near the river. The one photo is him standing in that spot.

Later we went to church where I know he saw some new things. When we left home at 5:30, there were some groans from the boys when I said church went until 9:00. But time went by pretty quickly. I had let him bring his GameBoy in if he got really bored. Because of some trips and other events, it was my son David’s first time there too. And he said it was “cool”. They both helped with putting chairs away afterwards.

On the way home from church, we swung over to Hudson for fireworks. We got to have some time with Renell, Caryn, cousin Anthony, and other friends. It was another long day for Carter. The next day we got to play a little football too in Wakanda Park, a place where I have some fond memories from years ago. In the car, David and Carter had a few hours of bonding with David helping him get further in his GameBoy game. And we played a little Pink Floyd music as well. They are one of Carter's favorite bands.

One thing I learned in the day and a half is that we have a wide variety of perspectives on the world and events. If we were to draw maps of our worlds, each of us would have very unique maps. Carter is smart and has an adult perspective on many things. But he is still a kid, or at least a much younger man than I.

One of the highlights of his trip he talked about the most was seeing a silver/gray fox at Grandpa and Grandma’s. And we walked by several potential dens and hiding places among the rocks. When we picnicked by a waterfall, my focus was mostly on the scenery and the sound of the water. For a kid, it was much more interesting to see two dragonflies stuck together. I’m not sure if the photo is G-rated or not. I don’t know much about dragonflies.


And I am sure his perspective on church was different from mine. But he did remember the message was about seeds. God has given us “seeds” of dreams and potential ministries and ways to impact the world for good. But seeds are useless until they are planted. We need to act on what we hear and actually plant the seeds. Back to our story…

Spending time with a younger child opened my eyes to some new perspectives. As I have recently had more time around couples with babies and toddlers, that has been a switch too. And I have occasion to be around people with very different world views.

Most people around the world tend to be attracted to and spend time with people similar to themselves. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to be with people different from ourselves. That may mean people of another ethnic group, gender, income level, race, background, value system, marital status, geographical area, education level, age, worship style, or other factors. We don’t have to agree on everything. But sometimes we can learn a lot by just trying to gain some understanding and appreciation of the perspectives of others.

Perhaps it is time to spend a few hours with some people quite different from you. You will not only learn more about them. You may learn a few things about yourself as well. Have fun!


Thursday, 26 June 2008

Angels Guarding the Intersection

The young man approached the crash scene a couple of days ago. It had been one of those side T-bone crashes that usually results in serious injuries. As a trained first-responder, he offered to help. But the police said it was under control.

He walked to a nearby parking lot. He asked God for help in understanding what was going on and how he might help. Then he saw them. There were winged angels, one on each of the four light posts around the intersection.

The ambulance drove away without any lights going. In this case, the injuries were very minor. Angels had provided protection.

Welcome to what is becoming the new normal. Even here in Minnesota, Christians are seeing angels and are becoming more aware of the unseen things around us. There is unseen protection. There are unseen battles for lives and souls. God is on the move.

Lord help us be aware of your acts on our behalf. And help us join in as you work to draw more people closer to you.

Premature Desperation

Many people in the Twin Cities area and northwestern Wisconsin followed the story of an autistic man lost after straying from a camp between Grantsburg and Trade River, Wisconsin. It was part of our discussion at a family graduation Saturday afternoon. Despite the searching of hundreds of people, the man was not found until a week later, still alive. That was Sunday evening. He is now recovering. We may never know his adventures of that week.

Read more at (still a featured story as of this writing) or

Part of the drama of the story is that there was discussion to call off the large-scale search after Sunday's efforts. He was found Sunday evening. I understand some of the difficulty in those decisions. And I probably would have supported any decision to continue or discontinue the large search efforts. I understand they may have had some feelings of desperation and hopelessness.

But the whole situation got me thinking (a dangerous thing). I have been with extended family five of the last six weekends for graduation parties. If I am truthful, I have to admit that in many cases I have given up hope for them. And quite possibly, I just don't care enough. Let me elaborate.

In most parts of the United States, and certainly in this area, a person can gain some knowledge about Christianity quite easily. There are Bible-believing congregations and fellowships scattered all over. Radio and TV and the Internet give us 24-hour-per-day teachings and encouragement. Theoretically, most of us have at least one person we can look to as a representative of Christ for us. I know I, and others, misrepresent him terribly at times. And the message presented does not always appear to be relevant. But those issues are for another blog article or two someday. But the point is that for most of my readers, the gospel, the good news, is accessible.

Still many reject it. God in his wisdom and love wants relationships built on love and commitment, not coercion. So he lets us choose. We can live in a committed relationship with him, or choose a life separated from his love and power and goodness. And that choice will follow us after death. We will be with him or separated from him. It is our choice.

I know that God can see people's hearts far better than I. But it appears many of the people I know have little interest in a life devoted to God and his purposes. There are numerous reasons for that, which I won't get into at this time. Without that relationship, they will have a very limited experience of the love and power of God working in them and through them to touch the lives of others.

It is easy to conclude people will never change. It is easy to assume they have no desire for change. But assumptions can often be wrong.

I admit I have often become complacent with people's choices and kept silent in both words and actions. Some would say that response is respectful. Some may say it is good Scandinavian behavior to be quiet. But the true motivators for us believers being silent may include things like lack of caring, lack of love, lack of mercy, fear of rejection, pride, fear of failure, insecurities about our communication skills, insecurities and guilt about past behavior, a lack of understanding of God's love and power available for them, and many more reasons. When it comes right down to it, many of us believers are quietly letting those around us suffer from a life without God, now and for eternity.

I believe in the prophetic and dreams and revelations. Some of the revelations with the most impact are the continuing revelations of what is inside us. Fortunately, God seems to space out those revelations over time as layers of our lives are revealed. Some of the revelations are good things we fail to see in ourselves as well.

Since some of my readers are family and friends and possibly coworkers, they are probably wondering what is next. I am wondering too. But I know I need to start caring more. Or, in some cases, I have been caring but I need to express that care more.

There has been some progress this week. Praying over the workplace led to a breakthrough in a frustrating phase of a work project. And one person nearby sold their home that had been on the market for months. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, present with us. My prayer is that the power and love and grace of the Kingdom will be present in our lives in the coming days, starting with now.

As long as people are alive, let us not give up hope for them.

Jamaica Trip in Progress

My son, David, is on a mission trip to Jamaica with 12 other students from here, plus a couple of great leaders. In the first days they served through a lot of physical construction work. They also visited a school, an infirmary, and a children's home where they could be an encouragement to others. And they helped out with a Vacation Bible School. The kids at the VBS loved them.

The group was "prayed up" before they went. Several of them prayed nine-to-five Wednesday night through early Thursday morning. David got home as I was getting up for work Thursday. I am so proud of him. There are also ongoing prayers for the trip.

Because of the prayer preparation and covering, there is a hope and expectation that God will use this trip in powerful ways. Lives will be changed. Like many activities, the fruit, or results, of the trip will be a combination of things. Some results will be immediately visible. Some of the impact may not be seen until months or years later.

Please pray that the Kingdom will be advanced in the lives of those served, those serving, and in the communities and fellowships of believers both near and far. Thank you.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Sloppy Wet Kiss

Like a sloppy wet kiss...

As I read the lyrics, I had to smile. This wasn't from a CD of love songs. Those were the lyrics on the screen at the front of the church.

I was enjoying passionate worship with a group of mostly twenty-somethings. They needed no prompting to cry out with passion and tears "Oh how he loves us. Oh how he loves us."

How can I describe the love God has for us, the love he has for you? It is lavish, passionate, compassionate, never-ending, and always faithful. Like a flooding river, it just flows and flows and flows. It is full of mercy, pure, tender, and so much more. It is amazing. It is simply outrageous, in a good way. It is both powerful and gentle. Let him wrap his arms around you and hold you safely in his arms.

"I realize how great your affections for me....
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest.
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way...
He loves us, Oh how he loves us..."

~ How He Loves Us by John Mark McMillan

Listening to the song again tonight, it brought tears. The lyrics aren't necessarily profound. But there is power in the passion and, for me, the memories of that recent evening.

Here is a version similar to the way I heard it live with a band and a young lady singing with passion:

The song is mostly background for this one. Crop out the last minute or so and this is a powerful
statement that few churches would dare attempt. Grab a Kleenex. If your browser has a zoom
feature in the lower right (or Ctrl+), you may wish to zoom in to 150 or 200% for reading.

Here is a version by the songwriter with some background behind the song:

Fathers Day 2008, Never Too Late

I am thankful I was with both my son and my Dad for Fathers Day this year. The morning was a little hectic. My son David and a group of teens were commissioned (prayed for) for an upcoming mission trip. Immediately after that was done we had to hop in the car to another church service where I had prior commitments to serve. Fortunately, that one started later. So it all worked out fine.

The afternoon was more relaxing. We took my Dad miniature golfing. He did great like he practiced all the time. I played cane caddy on most holes. It was fun.

But it was clear as we were done that the go-carts had his attention. He hadn't been in a go-cart for at least 30 years. So, after some hesitation, I bought us three tickets to drive. I wasn't sure how he would do. Driving skills and reaction times tend to go down with old age. But he did very well and stuck with the pack of other drivers. The worker there remarked that he was (one of) the oldest to drive the go-carts at age 80. Or, as my Dad put it, almost 81, like a child looking forward to the next milestone.

As long as we are breathing, it is never too late for something new. It is not too late for change. It is not too late for a fresh start in some aspects of our lives.

We can try some new activity or maybe stop a harmful activity. We can try a new attitude or perspective. Perhaps it is finally time for those words of thanks or apology. Perhaps it is time to really listen. Maybe it is time to learn something new. Maybe it is time to share your knowledge and experience with others.

But the most significant changes can come through spiritual changes that will affect the rest of our lives. It is never too late to say "I will live for God, above all other priorities." It is not too late to invite the power of God into all aspects of our lives. Biblically and historically, it seems God most often brought change to circumstances and health when the people were also inviting his authority into the rest of their lives as well. And that humble posture can be very difficult for most of us.

To see God's greatest work around us, through us, and especially in us, we must get out of the way. We must put aside what some would call "good" and choose what is "best". We must choose those values and priorities that will really last long after the things we physically see are gone. I write this to myself as well.

For most of us in the Midwest, as we look around the countryside, things are very green with new and renewed life. Life did not look quite that optimisic when that grass was dormant, when the seeds were still in a dark, dry package. But change came, sometimes in drastic ways. And new life emerged. Perhaps we will see change and new life this summer as well.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Wide World of Christianity

Yeah, I’m a little slow at getting thoughts from my head to the keyboard sometimes. I’m not a big sports fan. So it may seem kind of strange that the death of Jim McKay would bring me out of blogging slumber.

I do not know much about Jim McKay. And I have not seen him much in several years. But as best I can remember he frequently spoke positive words about athletes regardless of their performance. He also helped us learn more about the personalities and background of the athletes. He treated them as people with value beyond their athletic abilities. And I respect him for that.

Besides the Olympics, Jim was on Wide World of Sports. It was a Saturday afternoon highlight long before the days of ESPN. It exposed us to more than the big four of sports television: baseball, basketball, football, and hockey here in the states. We saw tennis, ski jumping, track, and numerous other sports. This exposure to dozens of sports not only showed us the variety of sports we could watch. It also showed us the wide variety of sports and recreational activities we could participate in.

Christianity has severely lacked anything resembling Wide World of Sports. Fortunately, primarily through the Internet, this is changing. In most Christian congregations, it is rare to hear much about what is happening around the world, or even in our own region. The focus is nearly always on activity within the four walls of the church and perhaps some reports from the denomination.

God is on the move. And there is a wide world of opportunities for participating. It isn’t just that I am in different circles of influence and hearing it more now. There are fresh things happening these days.

There have been thousands of healings and even people raised from the dead around the world. It has been less common in the states. But the revival meetings of Lakeland Florida the last few months are seeing a fresh work of healing and anointing. Watch on in the evenings.

Locally, there have been scattered healings around the Twin Cities metro area. There were several in Blaine during a series of meetings. I will need to write more about The House down in Burnsville. But they are seeing the miraculous on a regular basis. I am especially encouraged when I heard last night at The House about a 13-year-old praying for the healing of a 50-year-old and seeing it. Even the fitness center in the same building senses the power of their prayer gatherings.

There is stronger openness and wider experience of the prophetic. Insightful and specific words from the Lord are rather common in some circles. God wants to speak to those willing to listen and respond.

Across the nations, there are areas where the church has grown rapidly with whole communities changed. Some communities that have sought to please God have closed their jails because they were no longer needed. Watch the Transformation videos to learn about the dramatic changes in some cities.

Even in Muslim areas, there are now some growing vibrant churches. They have counted the cost. They are committed to being faithful to the true God. Dreams and visions have played a big role in getting the attention of many Muslims and other doubters.

Thousands of youth and those in their twenties have a passion for God that goes way beyond their parents. Recently 3,000 students went to Paradise, Kansas just to seek God. There weren't any celebrities or other distractions. It was just students humbly seeking an encounter with the living God through heartfelt worship and prayer.

Prayer is becoming more prominent. The International House of Prayer in Kansas City has had a huge impact in the Midwest. One report was that there are ten churches or organizations working toward 24/7 prayer in the Twin Cities area. I know there is at least one church in Iowa who just built a prayer tower to overlook their city. There has been a house of prayer over in the Chippewa Valley area in Wisconsin as well. I am sure there are many other examples of renewed focus on prayer. Locally, I am thankful for the great work of Beth Nephew to focus the Forest Lake community on prayer.

I have a few favorite resources of frequent news and encouragement:

  • Mission Network News has a daily podcast of timely information with both prayer needs and reasons for praise and thanksgiving.
  • God Network News periodically has podcasts with exciting news of what God is doing among the nations.
  • Brigada is the place for learning about new resources and possibilities for mission and ministry. Even though I don’t personally use many of them at this time, just reading about innovation and creativity is encouraging and inspiring.
  • For generic ministry, Catalyst and The Fermi Project podcasts are good for hearing about innovation primarily related to congregational ministry.
  • And there are many more good sources too.

If Wide World of Christianity isn’t listed in the TV schedule, assemble your own collection of inspiring resources. With the Internet, we are no longer limited to what our favorite pastor or teacher may share with us. We can go way beyond that and learn much more.

God is on the move these days and eagerly desiring that we join him.

Monday, 7 April 2008


I should have been sleeping. But the temptation of Chocolat on TV was too strong. So I had to watch some of it.

Way back in 2000, I enjoyed the film Chocolat in the theatres. The film has plenty of poor examples with poor morals and even hints of witchcraft. But there are some highlights.

The rebel in me enjoys the questioning of tradition. But even more so, parts of the movie are about bringing life to a people who are in prison to man's traditions and various means that lock up, or perhaps more accurately, lock out our chances for hope.

The movie deals with the Catholic church. But some of the lessons apply to all of Christianity. At times the focus has been negative with more focus on the "don'ts" instead of the "dos". And, at times, politics and the need for control come into play. The early church used a fish as its symbol. The cross is definitely important. But sometimes death gets more focus in church than life.

The "River Rats" among us go by different names. But as this movie portrays, many of the Christians can learn from the pagans about loving those who appear to be less lovable. Unconditional agape love is not always easy. One sign of hope is the recent popularity of "To write love on her arms" at It started out with a young woman who cut on her arm that she considers herself a "F*** Up". If only she knew love! And there are millions lacking hope, lacking identity, lacking purpose.

If only they knew life and love and hope! There are plenty of short-term pleasures and promises. But the long-lasting hope and purpose is found in a life fully committed to Jesus.

The world awaits to see us demonstrating the life they have longed for. Lord help us.

Harlan County U.S.A.

Watching Harlan County U.S.A. on IFC was interesting for me. One of the kinda cool unexpected things was the songs. They reminded me of a 2000 movie Songcatcher that highlighted mountain music. In both cases, the people made up songs to deal with and comment on a wide variety of circumstances.

Years ago, I remember the United Mine Workers mentioned on TV news quite frequently. I'm not a huge fan of unions. But I don't remember having a strong opinion about their situation at the time. This movie Harlan County U.S.A. is a documentary about one mining community and life with strikes and violence. The movie won the 1976 Academy Award for a documentary.

Although I enjoy independent and foreign movies, my main interest in this case was observing their reaction to injustice. In this case the main injustice was greed. Greed is by nature self-centered and has little interest in the welfare of others, whether workers, persons who are or were close to them, or other people. As I have observed, the greedy have little interest in truth.

In this case the miners had a choice of how to react. They organized with ethics (sometimes). Despite their mixed motives, the movie was successful in helping me empathize with those who are victims of the greed of others. I understand the situation well.

I understand that people do not always wish to hear the truth. That isn't just the people involved. But it includes the government and the millions of observers that often require strong persuasion to care.

Injustice is happening around the world and in our neighborhood and other places close by. What will it take for people to care? What will it take for us to care?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Bald Isn't Beautiful

Due to some circumstances, I have not been able to replace worn tires on my car. And now all four are bald with at least one preparing to blow soon. So far they have held out. And I have held off letting anyone else drive the car until I can get that fixed some day, some month.

Winter driving with bald tires has been quite stressful at times. Both stopping and starting have been a challenge many days. But I have stayed between the ditches with no collisions or heart attacks. God has been gracious.

Yesterday we got a heavy wet snow that left a layer of ice on most roads. I stayed at work until 6:30 p.m. hoping there would be less traffic for the hour-plus drive home. There was still some daylight.

In an effort to get to a freeway and plowed roads soon, I took my usual route. Yankee Doodle Road (a real name) is mostly up hill leaving the Minnesota River valley where I work. I slipped a little at the first stop light. But that was okay.

The next one was quite interesting. I stopped going up hill just fine. I was first in line. After the light turned green, I made little progress. Other cars ended up going around me. I even backed up a little after spinning towards the curb. Seeing little forward progress, I attempted to turn right on a mostly level side street. I did not even get that far before the light turned red again. I yielded to another vehicle and finally made some progress on the side street. I turned into an uphill driveway to turn around so I could back on to the street downhill. From the side street, I was able to get some momentum to eventually get up the hill. But that progress was mostly via bogged down anti-spin control and an occasional spin.

At the top of the hill, it was still icy. I made it safely through the intersections and down onto the freeway. The road home was slippery in many areas. I was content to make steady progress at 30-40 miles per hour. I was glad the rest of the route required no stopping, and especially not the usual stopping uphill in downtown Saint Paul.

So why do I share all this? Life is like that some days, some seasons. There are times we do all we can with all the resources we have. And still, progress appears to be minimal, if at all.

That can certainly be frustrating and disappointing. It can be confusing as well. Not all of life has a neat tidy ending. After repeated setbacks, there is a temptation to give up hope and quit trying.

But we must go on. God has kept us alive because he still has plans for us. So persevere we must. Most of the time those periods with little (apparent) progress eventually come to an end. And we can sometimes learn things from the experience in hindsight.

Some things in life we just need to move through hoping for better things ahead. I have had, and am in, some great challenges. You may be too. So I have to tell me, you, us, to not give up hope. Make those adjustments in direction and perhaps methods. Perhaps try another route to the destination. And maybe, just maybe, you will come out of the experience stronger and with new insight you could not have learned any other way.

Even with baby steps, keep moving forward.

We Are Going to State!

It has been tournament time once again. Even my high school returned to the basketball tournament after missing it for 35 years. And I am reminded I still haven't written my "Going to State" thoughts that have been hanging around in the back of my head for at least three years.

It is with great excitement that most schools and individuals exclaim "We are going to State!" This is especially true for those who rarely have that opportunity. Going to State is an honor.

As part of any tournament or competition, the competition gets tougher with each step. This is true whether you are competing in sports, music, speech, drama, quiltmaking, or some other activity. Each level brings greater and greater challenges. And we look forward to that.

We know that the challenges will reveal our capabilities, our limitations, and our possibilities. But regardless of the risks and the cost involved, we still regard it as an honor.

But then there is real life... We hear others, and perhaps ourselves, complain about our challenges. Despite the testimonies of many that challenges made them stronger, we still tend to complain when circumstances are difficult.

Besides the people around us, even nature shows us the benefits of difficulties. Roots go deeper during drought. Plants and animals can get tougher in the most trying times. And we can too.

One of the "benefits" of a whole bunch of "challenges" is that we can learn to persevere. And the next challenges don't seem so daunting when they aren't a huge step bigger than the past "impossible" situations we lived through.

I haven't consistently conquered the temptations of attitude. I can complain with the best or worst of them and I have my moments of pity. I too often forget God's faithfulness in helping me through past challenges. And I would be lying if I claimed to look forward to every hard time coming my way. But over time, a person truly can have some peace regardless of circumstances. And eventually I might be able to occasionally embrace the difficulties with the hope of what may result from the experience.

Are you looking forward to "Going to State", or whatever big challenge may be in your future?

What Is So Good About Good Friday?

Most Americans have attended a Good Friday church service at some time in their lives. Quite often the experience is a rather sad and gloomy time with the lights low and plenty of silence.

The message is usually pretty accurate. But there is rarely any explanation to children, or adults!, of why it is called "Good" Friday. The best I have heard from some pastors is that it is good for us, not necessarily for Jesus. And Jesus dying to cover the sins of those devoted to him truly is good news.

As Jesus was near death, his words were "It is finished." Our first interpretation when we hear those words is that it is all done. Our hopes are now gone (at least for a couple days). So the word "finished" is a negative one.

But another way of viewing "finished" is that something is complete. Jesus completed the mission he was given. He did what he was supposed to do. He could truly say to the Father, "Mission accomplished." And anytime we can give a report like that, it usually is a "good" experience.

Similarly, thousands around the world retain joy even as they suffer and are even killed for being Christian. There is joy and satisfaction in remaining faithful regardless of the cost. There is peace and hope in what may result from that suffering. So, yes, dying for God's purposes can truly be a "good" day, a Good Friday.

On a more personal note, one pastor knows that some years ago I wrote that if it takes my funeral to get one particular individual to start living for Jesus, it will be worth it. Assuming I stay committed to God, then the transfer from earth to heaven is only a matter of timing. In the mean time, if he is truly Lord in my life, I should be open to God using me in whatever way is most strategic in the lives of others. Obviously, I don't know if my funeral is days or decades from now. My hope is that my life, or at least the spoken message at the funeral, will truly make it a "good" life-giving day for somebody - hopefully some of my family and friends.

Have a "good" day.


I am obviously not in the habit of writing daily, or even weekly!!

I don't follow the church calendar much. But for the past several years, I have tried to treat Lent as a special time. I usually do some fasting. But mostly it is a time of learning and listening. I hope to gain new direction and insights during the time.

This year I had the pleasure of getting an updated version of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class (audio only). Throughout the year, I focus mostly on hearing from innovative church and mission leaders, primarily via podcasts.

Since I like to learn, I can easily become like a sponge, taking in all kinds of information and wisdom. But a sponge is not fulfilling its purpose until it is applied to some situation. So now that Lent is over it is time for more action. Or, at the very least, it is time to share some of what has been absorbed.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Legacy of Saint Patrick

The past few weeks it has been a joy to once again hear some of the content from a class I took years ago, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Part of the course includes discussion of ways God worked through history in a wide variety of ways to get Christians among the nations. One example is the story of Saint Patrick.

I have included an exerpt from a class so you too can hear more about Patrick's story and how God once again used ordinary people for extraordinary impact.