Do Not Fear Hurdling Tin Cans (or anything else for that matter!)

Let me just say it here and now: I do not like flying.  I’m not exactly aviophobic, but the idea of sitting in a pressurized tin can with wings that is soaring at over 500 mph about 5-1/2 miles above the earth… well, it is unsettling.  My uncle just broke his ankle falling off a seven foot ladder.  A fall from 30,000 feet would likely be much worse.

A few years ago, my wife and I were at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, getting ready to fly to Atlanta to see my brother and his family.  On the drive to the airport, I noticed the sky to the west growing darker and darker.  I turned on the radio and listened as, through the crackles and snaps that lightning creates on AM frequencies, the meteorologist said the last words I really wanted to hear:

Tornado warning.

Take shelter.

Funnel sightings in rural areas west of the Twin Cities.

I had Wizard of Oz visions dancing in my anxious mind: cattle, barns, tractors, all being sucked up in a spiraling maelstrom.  Flying monkeys circling the perimeter of the vortex.  The voice of Johnny, the air traffic controller from the movie Airplane!, shouting, “Auntie Em!  Auntie Em!  It’s a twister!  It’s a twister!”

I did a quick mental calculation.  This storm was headed toward the airport.

We arrived before the storm, got through security and settled in to grab a bite before the flight when it hit.  Watching the wind and rain, I really didn’t want to get on an airplane.  I looked down at my feet.  No ruby slippers.  Just my luck.

Our flight was delayed but, the storm passed, no damage done.  As soon as it was safe, we boarded our flight and taxied out on the runway.  Now, I will tell you that my second least favorite part of flying is take off (number one: you guessed it, landing).  I will also tell you that, taking off in the unstable atmosphere of a just-passed thunderstorm is can be less than comfortable.  Especially when, as the plane is climbing and shaking, you experience a sudden drop that makes you feel like the world just fell out from under you.

The plane climbed and shuddered.  For a few short moments, I was one jolt away from becoming John Lithgow in The Twilight Zone, shrieking at the top of my lungs, “There’s a man on the wing of this plane!” I was sure they were going to have to turn the plane around and haul me out on a gurney.  I still get the creeps when I hear CCR’s cover of “The Midnight Special.” (Ok… I think I’m done with the movie references for now…)

I was praying hard.  I thought for sure we were headed for an involuntary landing on the Minnesota River.  Hope we don’t hit the I-494 bridge.  Once we rose above the storm and things calmed down a bit, I realized I had leaned forward and grabbed onto the seat in front of me. Hard.   Loosening my Kung Fu grip, I quietly apologized to the passenger whose seat I had sunk my fingers into.  “Don’t sweat it,” he said kindly.  Still, he avoided eye contact with me when we were disembarking at Hartsfiel.

Why the fear?  My anxiety fired up well before take off.  I was scared before we even got to the airport.  I didn’t trust that the pilot or the air traffic controllers would know what they were doing.  Worst of all, I didn’t trust God.

How often in life do we face situations that are unpleasant – even downright scary – and get ourselves worked up before we even get there?  And, while we face some turbulence – even of the variety that makes you feel like your stomach is in your esophagus when the bottom seems to fall out – we survive.  In fact, the rest of the trip may well end up downright enjoyable.

There is a reason Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 to not worry about anything.  It’s because God knows what He is doing.  He absolutely has control.  Sometimes we face difficult situations by our own doing, and sometimes He leads us there.  Every situation has merit, good or “bad.”  At the very least it is a moment of learning or testing or growth.  But embrace it bravely and faithfully, knowing God is the one in control of the results.  Do what God wants, learn from the experience, and move on with God.  Don’t let fear rob you of the experience God has set before you.

What I Am Learning Today…

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

This morning I woke early, dressed, and set off in the predawn for St. Paul, praying and seeking God. Looking up as I walked to my van, I looked up and saw the stars – the most amazing array of stars set against the vast blackness of space, punctuated here and there by light, wispy clouds. The wonder of the vastness of God, beyond our grasp yet before us to behold!

As I drove along the suburban freeways into the slow sunrise, the stars faded in the purples and blues that filled the dark and brought the clouds alive in an amazing display of muted hues. The wonder of the vastness of God, beyond our grasp yet before us to behold!

I pulled into the lot at the Cathedral of St. Paul and, entering the amazing edifice as I have several times before, I reveled in the massive awe of the space of this place. I soaked in the vastness of God, recreated in some very very small way yet ever pulling my eyes upward. The wonder of the vastness of God, beyond our grasp yet before us to behold!



Slipping out before mass started, I looked across the parking lot at the Cathedral’s neighbor: the James J. Hill house, one time home of the famous railroad baron. The contrast between the light and beauty of the Cathedral and the dark foreboding of the Hill house – nearly 125 years old and a quarter century older than it’s grand hilltop neighbor – was startling. The Hill house represents the accumulated wealth and possibility the world has to offer. Inside it, too, is filled with vast spaces.

Yet, it is dark. A feeling of emptiness fills the space indoors. In the Cathedral, light prevails. Even in it’s dark corners, a sense of light shines. The quiet is peaceful and holy, not hollow.

I am reminded today that I am free, and freed by the God Who fills the vast spaces He pleases. I can appreciate the worshipful space of the Cathedral without being. Catholic, because I am free from the bonds that hold me. I am a slave to Christ alone.

I am reminded that the world’s treasures are a waste. Empty. Hollow. Dark. What The Lord offers is wondrous beyond price: eternal freedom. Created beauty. The ability to bless another quietly and anonymously. Freedom to seek His Spirit within me, and follow Him as I sense He leads. Freedom from sin. Freedom from convention. Freedom from guilt and shame. Freedom from judgment or criticism of others. Freedom to be, as small as I am in the grand scheme of it all, a tiny cog in the wheel.

Free to be who God created me to be.

Free to stop, breathe, be, and revel in the wonder of the vastness of God, beyond our grasp yet before us to behold!




No Condemnation

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Maybe you know someone who needs to read this.

Maybe you need to get this planted in your brain.

Forgiven is forgiven. Period. If God does not condemn you, who is anyone on earth to judge and condemn?

Did you confess and repent of your sin? Did you ask The Lord to forgive you? Then it’s a done deal. You don’t need to feel forgiven. You are forgiven! You are free of your sin! You are cleansed!

Don’t wait to feel it. Accept the grace, mercy, forgiveness and love of Jesus by faith with gratitude, joy and peace.

Good night friends. Rest in Jesus and sleep easy.

The Truth About The Truth

The neat thing about the truth is how unquestionably absolute it is. It matters not the least if any of us believe it, feel it is right or agree with it. The truth is the truth.

“I am The Way, The Truth and The Life”, Jesus said. If you need to find the Truth, look no further than the Bible. There you will find the truth about your situation, your life. You will find that it isn’t necessarily what you feel or think or observe.

In God’s Word, you will find that you are loved far greater than you could ever imagine. You are forgiven so completely that your sin is separated from you “as far as the east is from the west.” You are the child of the Creator and Sustainer of all, a God so mighty that nothing is impossible for Him. You will see that, in Christ, our lives are far beyond our situations and troubles and pain and sin and shame and worries and doubts.

God is so faithful. Know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free! And the one Jesus sets free is free indeed! (John 8:32, 36)

Out of the Mouths – and Hearts – of Babes

Tonight, praying with my seven year old, I was reminded that our faith ought to be childlike. I listen to my little son as he talks to God, and realize how free and unencumbered he is in his faith.

He trusts The Lord and loves Jesus. He doesn’t question what happened or why. He doesn’t wrestle with deep theological ponderings or try to figure it all out. He thanks God for his family and kitties and puppy. He tells Jesus he loves him and asks for His guidance. He is open and honest.

My little boy simply loves The Lord, trusts Him wholeheartedly and speaks to Jesus from His heart.

I think we could all learn a little something from the prayers of our kidlets.

Think – It’s OK, God Gave You a Brain For Just That Reason

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 [ESV]

There it sits.  It’s as plain as the nose on your face, but you can’t see it because it is behind your face.  Encased in heavy duty skull bone, floating around in cerebrospinal fluid and growing from an advanced cerebral cortex, four lobes of gray brain matter – the center of all thought and sensation and speech and motion and mood.  Weighing in at an average of just over three pounds, the human brain is a wonder to behold – the most intricate physical part of the human being.  As advanced as humanity is today, we still do not quite have a handle on the brain in all it’s complexity. Only God could have designed and created such an organ – especially out of dirt.

And God created us with this advanced reasoning apparatus for a purpose: to use it.


We humans can be a lazy lot.  Maybe it’s that we’re so busy that we can’t be bothered to spend time with God in His Word and prayer.  But we like to be spoon-fed our faith in small, easily-digestible bits.  We like the milk.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? – 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 [ESV]

There comes a point, folks, where we have to let go of the religious conventions that serve only to drag us through the muck and mire of small-minded legalism and judgment.  And, yes, we need to always stay connected to the body of Christ and seek God’s wisdom and guidance in ALL things.  (“Forsake not the gathering of the brethren” is not merely a Sunday morning attendance command.  It means community, which takes many forms.  But that’s a topic for another time.)

My point is this: I am not saying don’t go to church.  But I am saying this: think.  Think for yourself.  Take the time to personally seek the Lord.  Not only during corporate worship, but at home. Seek Him.  Read your Bible and think about it.  Find how reasonable it is and, if something doesn’t make sense, don’t let it be the Bible’s fault.  Our misunderstandings are not caused by inaccurate translation.  They are the result of our flawed humanity

Do not merely take another human being at his or her word. Save that for God’s Word alone. Again, do not misunderstand me.  I’m not saying ignore your pastor or mentor or family or friends.  I am saying let God’s Word transform your thinking.  Not an “ism.”  Not a dogma.  Not some mega church pastor’s best-seller or radio program.  Let God and His Word change you. Discern what is good and cling to that.  Don’t go to the mulberry bush looking for bananas.

Be guided by God through His Word.  Let the Bible be your diving rod.  Seek the Lord earnestly, with an open mind, setting aside any teaching that is counter to what God says in His Word.  Prayerfully stay in God’s Word and don’t worry what anyone else thinks.  Beware of those who accuse of being “so open-minded that your brain fell out.”

Our brains aren’t perfect.  But they work.  And we need to work them.  “Seek first the kingdom of God”, not religion or opinion.  Discern.  Know the tree’s fruit.  Think.  Above all else, trust in Christ alone.

This is Not a Marshmallow

It isn’t a matter of just wanting you to feel better.

This isn’t simply to give you a feel good pump up.

This isn’t a marshmallow. Which is a good thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better that a well roasted marshmallow, stuck on a stick and set aflame over a campfire. There’s just something about black char and tree bark that make the molten gooeyness even more blissful.

But, a steady diet of marshmallows will make you sick. Too much sugar feeling like you wanna barf ill. Ick.

Some Christian teachers just want to keep tossing marshmallows at us. What we do not need is a steady diet of sweetness.

What we need is the truth.

Recognize this for the truth that it is and not as a marshmallow. I say this to comfort you not merely so you will feel better. I write this so you will know the truth of your situation and you can be equipped to help someone out go the same quagmire.

It doesn’t matter who you are.

It doesn’t matter what you have done.

It doesn’t matter where you have been or why.

You may have tried to out-prodigal the prodigal son.

You may have tried to out-smoke Cheech and Chong.

You may think that what you said or did in the past would make the devil himself blush and say, “Don’t think I would have done that!”

Here is the truth about your situation: you are not beyond saving. You are worth saving. You are loved more than you can imagine. You are still drawing breath, so God has given you time. With His help, you can turn away from your sin and find freedom and life and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it be worth it? You tell me. Salvation is hope eternal. Hope now, hope forever. The reward of following Christ far outshines the pleasures of any sin. You can know true, deep, lasting peace. You can walk away from all the guilt and shame and be renewed, reborn. “But you don’t know what I’ve done.” You’re right. But God knows. And He is love. He is mercy. Through the shed blood of Jesus is forgiveness of all sin. His grace is sufficient for you. His love is unending.

This isn’t a marshmallow. This is your reality. God loves you beyond comprehension. Jesus died for you.


You are neither helpless or hopeless. You are not beyond His reach. Turn to The Lord, trust in Jesus, rest in a His love and seek His forgiveness and His will. He will never leave you.

Frankly, You’re a Mess… But, Humbly, So Am I…

Tonight I am just writing honestly, straight from the heart. Not that I haven’t been before (I certainly have), but this is more personal, more like an open letter to all of you.

I would like to think that I have it all together. I do not. I would like to think that you have it all together. You do not.

None of us do.

We are flawed, marred, scarred, weary, broken… We are a mess – individual and collectively. There is no sense in trying to hide it. Ignoring the mess doesn’t make it go away.

But, don’t lose heart. There is hope for all of us, for each of us. That hope is Jesus Christ. Now, I had to think twice at the phrasing of that sentence. It is one of those religious lines that has become so vague, so used, so repeated that it suffers from the contempt that familiarity brings. Yes, yes… Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so…

The emptiness of loveless legalistic religion does nobody any good. Rules and regs are important for setting moral lines and defining what is sinful. But all rules and no heart saves no one. In fact, you and I cannot perform well enough to save ourselves. We are sinful. We are self interested. We are a mess.

I am a mess.

You are a mess.

So… what saves us? The grace of God. The belief that Jesus died for our sins, because He loves us.

Yes, Jesus loves you. The Bible tells us so.

The reality of our situation is that we cannot earn anything from God, and we certainly do not deserve any blessing He places in our hands. But God is our Father, Abba. I’m not referring to the ultra popular ’70s pop band, but the Aramaic word Jesus used to refer to His Father.

To our Father.

It means “papa.” It is a childlike expression of trust in daddy. It is a term of tender endearment, a recognition that He loves us and cares for us in a very real way. We don’t have to understand it fully. We just have to accept it.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:12-17 (ESV)

Only trusting in a God, believing in His love for us – despite circumstances and trials and troubles – can save us. We must have a childlike faith. No religious incantations, no amount of good deeds, no perfect church attendance will save anybody. Empty religion is just that: empty.

The only thing that matters is that we love God, and love others more than self. And love is active. You don’t just say it, you do it. It’s real. It’s reality. No legalism, for that only leads to judgment (which is ironic, given that we are commanded to “judge not”).

Don’t hide behind religion. Face reality. Be honest with yourself. I am a mess. So are you. We’re all in the same boat. Sin is the great moral leveler, because we all have it.

By the same token, don’t sit and just brood over your broken state. Focus on the solution: Jesus Christ. God’s Word proclaims reality, not our feelings or opinions. Have total faith in Abba, and find the freedom that knowing Christ brings.

If God For Us…

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31 (ESV)

Paul poses it as if it were a question: if God is for us – if He is on our side (or, more accurately, we on His), who could possibly stand up against us? Because to get to us, God’s children, you have to go through Him first!

This does not mean that, as Christians, we will never suffer pain or loss or sorrow or hardship ever again. We hurt just the same as non-believers. But remember this:

15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. 17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. 19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. – Psalm 103:15-19 (ESV)

We have a promise that extends far beyond this earthly life, with all it’s sin and sadness, terror and worry, troubles and trials and disease and famine and spite and hatred…

Whatever you are facing, it won’t last forever. God is with you always. He will either pull you out of your troubles or see you through them. Whatever you are facing, seek The Lord through it and learn what He wants you to learn, change what He wants you to change, and help others in the same situation do likewise.

There really is no question of whether God is for us. He is. So face tomorrow, face tonight, face your hardships and difficulties head on, resting in faith in God’s love and cars and strength and provision. Have faith and do not doubt. Love God. Love one another. Be bold in Christ.