The Honest Hope of Scars


Life begins with a clean slate.  But, almost immediately, that slate begins to fill with experiences and knowledge and observations.  As we travel through life, we grow.  Like a tree, we develop our rings, getting stronger and growing bigger.

Inevitably we face hardships of any number of varieties: loss, abuse, doubts, disappointment, pain, shattered expectations, poor decisions… Some hit earlier in life, some later.  All of them leave scars, marring that clean slate we started with.

Some face lives that are beyond scarred.  They are utterly shattered.  And even when a shattered life is put back together and mended, scars remain.  The fractures and tears still show.

But don’t believe for one minute that there is any shame in those scars.  While the original appearance may be altered, scars can be beautiful, because they are honest.  They tell a story that is at the same time both painful and heroic.

Scars say, “I survived this.”   “I am strong.”  “The Lord is with me – He saved me from _____________” (fill in the blank).

When we are honest about our scars, we bring hope to others.  People who are knocked down by life can draw inspiration from your story and say, “He survived it.  She came out stronger and better for the experience.  I can, too.”

That is what is meant by the proverb, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV).  Sharpening doesn’t come from a mere pat on the back, wink of the eye and smiling “Attaboy!”  Not that there is anything wrong with that type of encouragement (I think it should happen more often).

True sharpening comes when the metal is scrubbed and rubbed with an abrasive material, causing friction.  It draws up burrs, but it also removes the dull outer layer and creates a sharper, more beautiful surface.

When we share our stories – when we are honest about are scars – it can be painful.  It isn’t easy to relive those moments of pain and sorrow.  But, in doing so, you are being sharpened through the pain and, more importantly, you are sharpening others.

There is nothing shameful about scars.  While they may have come from less-than-noble circumstances, they do not define you.  The cracks on the surface are marks of strength and hope.  You are not defined by your past.  You are not a victim.  You are not beyond hope.  Your scars are not meant to drag you down with reminders of hurt but to strengthen you with the reminder that you are strong in Christ. Use your scars to help others discover the same strength.

400 Words (Roughly)


Work continues on the devotional project.  I rolled out of bed at 4:30 this morning, feeling quite uninspired and, frankly, a bit apprehensive at the thought of writing a book.  

I realize I need a fresh approach.  I grabbed my stack of index cards and began writing one word on each card.  One word that would make a good base for a devotional article.

And I kept going.

After 75 minutes, I had almost 400 index cards filled.  Nearly 400 words.  Surely there are duplicates in there.  (Did I mention I got up at 4:30 this morning?)

I also have set myself a goal.  This book will be written this year.  It will contain revisions of blog posts I have already written, as well as new pieces.  

I have been writing more and more and feel like I have a decent rhythm going (finally).

This feels good.  This feels right.  Momentum. Ooh!  That’s a good word right there.  I need more index cards.

Prayers and encouragement are always welcome.

Blessings on your day today!


You guys scare me.


Every time I write something and hit “send”, I think, “Oh no… should I have sent that?  Did I sound stupid?  Did I go too far out there?  What if I make a fool of myself?  Was I offensive? Was I inappropriate?  Will my friends distance themselves from me?  Will my parents disown me?  What if I just wrote something so bad, so foul, so poor, that it causes the earth to slow its spin and sag off its axis, so the North Pole is now located somewhere just off the A7 Autobahn near Hamburg, Germany?”

For starters, if bad writing we’re going cause the earth to shift, the polar cap would have covered northern Deutschland long ago.  My writing may not be of publishable quality quite yet but, by gummies, it will be one day.

Still, I think anyone who fancies themselves a writer must face at least a tinge of graphophobia (fear of writing).  Even when I am being facetious I worry about hurting feelings inadvertently.  And when I am in theological mode, do I come across as judgmental?  Or condescending?  

I think what it boils down to for anyone who writes is this: be yourself.  I am a goofball armchair theologian.  I take life too seriously and try hard to find the balance between humour and seriousness.  And then I think of my stepfather’s words and am comforted: “The worst thing that could happen is they’d eat you.  And they aren’t going to do that.”

All I have to offer this world is what God has given me: abilities, gifts, love.  All I can truly, honestly be is me, who God formed me to be.

It’s all any of us have to offer.

So I keep seeking my “voice” in my written words.  I learn to let God’s Word and my experiences (in)form my writing.  I try to give hope, to be salt and light.  I aim to make people think, and smile, and laugh.  I pray to inspire and comfort.  I hope to reach millions – not for my sake, but just to kindle a big fire of joy to a world in desperate need of Love.

Maybe I’m not as scared as I thought I was.

Traveling Jesus Style (or Take the Sandals, Leave the Magna Carta)

My family does not travel light.  We tend to cram as much of our house as will fit in our van.  Clothes, toys, laptop, dog kennel, dog, more toys, change for the toll booths, books, snack food, pillows, blankets, some more toys, coolers (plural), swimming gear, lawn chairs, fishing poles and tackle boxes, another bag of toys, generator, yak, bricks, industrial belt sander (just in case), bust of Abraham Lincoln, more toys, saddles (even though we don’t ride horses), fifty pound sack of flour, iron skillet, jars of pickled herring, copies of the Magna Carta (just in case), dried meat, hardtack, hyperbaric chamber, toys, toys, toys…

You get the idea.

When I read Luke 9, I shuddered:

1  And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2  and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3  And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6  And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. – Luke 9:1-6 (ESV)

I once left my wallet at my mom’s and practically freaked out.  Not because of the missing billfold, but the 40 minutes I just added to our already 10 hour trip in order to turn around and retrieve it.  (You have to make good time when you travel.)

When I’m trying to wedge a pontoon boat into the open hatch of my van, I’m thinking, “Preparedness!”  And here is Jesus, sending the twelve disciples out into the world with nothing but the clothes on their back.  No change of outfit.  No toll money.  No AAA cards.  No snacks.  No nothing.

The lesson on faith is an obvious one.  But putting it into practice for most of us in the western world is another story.  I believe the point of this particular lesson goes beyond trusting God (although that is a vital component here: trust God for everything, not your wallet or your own abilities).

Trust and humility truly go hand-in-hand.  If we come strolling into town dragging along a ton of luggage, dressed to the nines and talking a big talk about Jesus, how genuine will we come across?  How humble will we really be?

When we’re traveling with Jesus, humility is a vital point.  If we as Christians are not humble at heart, we blow it.  We cannot love if we are not humble.  We cannot reach people who feel that we are (or think we are) above them.  We cannot risk the temptation of wanting to be served.  We have to have a genuine heart of trust in God, humility and love.

Jesus wants to pull us out of our comfort zones.  He wants us to put our trust – fully, wholly, completely – in Him.  Not our net worth.  Not our jobs.  Not our own abilities.  He wants us to humble ourselves, give and accept kindness with gratitude, and love one another.  What we truly need for our life’s journey cannot be earned.  It is a gift from God.  Trust Him and go.

The Fish in the Tree

“Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will lives it’s whole life believing it is stupid.”  Allegedly Albert Einstein said that.  I don’t know where the quote came from, but it’s on the Internet so it must be true, right?

Imagine being the fish in the tree.  How well would you thrive?  Actually, forget thriving.  How could you possibly survive?  The atmosphere would be crushingly toxic for you.  Your gills need water for you to breathe.  Your muscles would begin to contract as you fight to breathe until you finally gasp your last and tumble to the ground.  If suffocation didn’t get you, the fall would.

Yet how many of us fish spend our lives trying to climb a tree? 

The truth is everybody has a purpose – a God given reason to exist, to live.  Every human being is very deliberately and precisely designed by the Creator of all, to fill a particular space and time, interact with specific people, influence and be influenced, help and be helped, love and be loved.

And we have talents to facilitate just those things, to do what God intends each of us to do.  When we fight our natural creation and try to be someone we are not – when we leave the pond we were designed to inhabit in order to shimmy up a tree we were never meant to climb – we are not being true to our created selves, or our Creator.

It could be a career choice.  Maybe a life choice that held you back or moved you away from where you should be.  Maybe these things are really just part of God’s plan to give you wisdom to use in your own life and impart on others.  

If you find yourself climbing a tree when you should swimming free beneath the waves, don’t sweat it.  Find what God designed you to do, who He means you to be, and prayerfully head back to the river.  Let your tree climbing days be over.  If others call you stupid for your decision, so be it.  People thought Jesus was crazy.  (Clearly He was not.). It didn’t deter Him from fulfilling His purpose.  He did not let critics turn His head.

Go ahead.  Run your race.  Follow the passion the Lord has stoked within you.  Be strong and courageous.  Let go of the tree and head for the river!  

Weekend Munchables: Ketsana’s Thai


I thought I would never see the day.

Seven or eight years ago, in our pre-parental days, I took my beautiful wife out to eat at a nice little Thai restaurant.  The food was delicious, but warm.

Very warm.

Lots of curry paste.

You needed a rhythm to enjoy this heat: deep breath, take a bite, exhale flames, swig some milk, repeat all over again.

Very tasty, but very spicy.  It was exactly what I had always expected Thai cuisine to be: food that would make you sweat like you had just run five miles through Bangkok at high noon in August.

My wife’s dinner that night was my lunch for the next couple of days.  I ended up going through a Burger King drive thru to get her something to eat.

“Never again,” she swore.  “Never again.”

Last night we had dinner at Ketsana’s Thai in Plymouth MN.  We haven’t stepped foot in a Thai restaurant in all these years.  I could tell my wife was nervous about it (she kept repeating the fact that she had been told there was Chinese fare on the menu, and she clung to that promise like a drowning woman to a log).  In fact, had we not been going out with my son’s gymnastics team and parents, she would never have set foot in a restaurant with the word “Thai” in it.  The mere mention of the word makes her forehead start to sweat.

Thanks to Ketsana, my wife is no longer afraid of Thai food.  In fact, our dinners were so wonderful, we will be returning.

Jennie had the beef and broccoli.  She said the sauce was light and a little sweet.  It was a wonderful compliment to the meat and vegetables, and did not overpower.  She savored every morsel.

Jen also got a pot of the best hot tea I had tasted in a long time.  Very gentle.  (Before last night, the best tea I had ever tasted was at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou.  We asked our server what brand it was, thinking we would bring home some of this fantastic tea from China.  The lady very enthusiastically led us over to the bar area and showed us the huge box of tea – imported from France. So much for the best Chinese tea on earth.)


As for me, I ordered the Roast Duck Curry, mild (above).  (You can order your dishes mild, medium and hot).  The curry had some bite to it, but was just warm enough that it added a little zing to the dish.  The sauce (made with coconut milk and red curry paste) was smooth and sweet and absolutely comforting.  The duck was tender and delicious.  The whole dish practically melted on my tongue.  And the basil leaves gave it a special added touch of taste.

The kids dove into the noodles, cream cheese puffs and Chicken Satay like nobody’s business.

The next time you’re hungry for some Asian food, give Ketsana’s a try.  (I’ve already decided to try one of her pad noodle stir fries on my next visit.)

The prices are good, and the food is delicious.  Ketsana’s gets the Austin thumb’s up (and that ain’t easy!)

Thank you Ketsana!  Now I can take my wife out to a Thai restaurant again.


Today you will be presented with a lot of choices: what to wear, what to eat, what to buy…  choices of lanes in traffic, choices in the drive thru at Whacky Burger…

You also have a choice of attitude.

You can look at your lot in life and think it stinks and choose to wallow in that.  And, honestly, maybe it does stink.  Maybe your job is rotten, your boss a grumpy taskmaster, your paycheck not an apt reflection of the hard work and dedication you give your employer.

Maybe you’ve been dealt a lousy hand in life.  Illness plagues you or your family.  Finances are tough.  A relationship is broken – seemingly beyond repair.

You can choose to focus on all of the ick in your life, the troubles and miseries.

Or you can choose hope.  You can choose to rise above it.  You can choose to leave the anxieties with the Lord and focus on what He says to do – which is love others, serve, and don’t worry about tomorrow.

We all have choices.  And we have to make them every day.

Negative circumstances only weigh us down when we let them.  Choose hope today.  Focus on Love.  Seek God first.

Have a blessed day, friends!

St. Patrick: The Man, The Myth, The Legend


Detail of St. Patrick stained glass window at St. Benin’s Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland.  Photo by Andreas F. Borchert.and used here under the Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike license. 

St. Patrick is a figure shrouded in mystery.  While much is known and accepted about the patron saint of Ireland, there is a lot of finscéal out there as well.

As for the truth… believe it or not, Patrick was actually Scottish.  Born in AD 387 to Roman parents.  As a teenager, he was abducted and enslaved in Ireland.  There he found God and several years later escaped and returned home to Britain.  He studied to become a priest.

On 25 March 433, now Bishop Patrick returned to the land of his enslavement to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Irish people.  He used the three-leafed shamrock to describe the Holy Trinity to the people (hence the Irish affinity for the tri-lobed plant).  After spending many years in humble service to God and the Irish people, living a life of trust in the Lord, Patrick died on 17 March 461 – the date we celebrate as St. Patrick’s Day.

These details we accept.  However, over the centuries, St. Patrick – like many ancient historic figures – has had more than his fair share of myth and malarkey tagged onto his story.  His biography has more unwanted riders attached than a bill being passed by Congress.

Here are a few of the lesser-known, absolutely baseless and outrageous luíonn about St. Patrick.  If you hear any of these at your celebrations tonight, do not believe them:

1. St. Patrick created a sandwich made from soda bread, with corned beef, cabbage and cheese, toasted over a fire until the cheese was melted – hence the world’s first Patty Melt.

2. St. Patrick supported John F. Kennedy for president in 1960.  Indeed, Patrick was a Kennedy supporter from his earliest junior Congressional days.

3. St. Patrick’s favorite movie: The Bells of St. Mary’s.  Least favorite: Snakes on a Plane.

4. St. Patrick once owned a Volvo dealership in Galway.

5. St. Patrick drove the unicorns out of Ireland.

6. In Guangzhou, China, people swim across the Pearl River – not because Chairman Mao did it, but because St. Patrick did.

7. St. Patrick was the Grand Marshall at New York City’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade.

8. St. Patrick claimed to be the writer of the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, but opted not to file a multimillion euro lawsuit, preferring forgiveness.

9. St. Patrick owned and operated a chain of Pizza Huts across Ireland.

10. As a youngster, Patrick’s friends nicknamed him “Spanky”.

11. It was St. Patrick’s idea to dye the Chicago River green.

12.  Before they were famous, St. Patrick played keyboards with U2.  He left the band over “artistic differences” with lead singer Bono and Bono’s Japanese girlfriend at the time, Yoko.

13. St. Patrick was a renowned clog dancer, taking home the first place trophy in the County Cork Waterdance Invitational a record seven years in a row.

14. St. Patrick once slept here.

15. St. Patrick was once banned from a well-known Las Vegas casino.  Details are murky.

16. St. Patrick was originally cast to play Joey on the sitcom Friends, but was replaced at the last minute by Matt LeBlanc, who the producers felt was more “Jersey”.

17. St. Patrick invented green beer (a claim that will probably be boisterously / foolishly made at many a pub tonight).

18. St. Patrick just happened to be in the audience at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot.  He also just happened to be passing through Gettysburg when the president made his famous address.

19.  If you look at the album cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that’s St. Patrick at the top, between W.C. Fields and Edgar Allen Poe.

20. There are only six degrees of separation between St. Patrick and any Irishman.

Hope this put a smile on your face.  Have a blessed and wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!  And remember the good the man actually did in the name of Christ.

Like Deja Vu All Over Again, Ad Nauseum

My wife says I’m stale.

OK, usually when she says that it’s because I’ve chosen to wear yesterday’s shirt to putter around the house.  And said shirt may or may not be the same yesterday’s shirt I wore yesterday to putter around the house.  (Men, you understand, right?)

This time she isn’t telling me I smell like a musty squirrel.  She is referring to my writing.

That arrow struck close to the heart.

But… she is right.  I keep writing the same stuff.  Like a needle stuck on an album groove.  Like deja vu all over again.  While Deja Vu is a fine Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album, I do not care to hear it over and over, ad nauseum.

The time has come to mix it up a bit.

You see, life isn’t really compartmentalized.  We break it down into boxes for easy transport and unpacking.  We have our home lives, our work lives, our faith lives, our hobby lives, our family lives…  But, really, isn’t it all just life?

Life is meant be a holistic experience.  In reality, that is exactly what it is. The good, the bad, the ugly. Everything in our lives informs and intersects and infects everything else.  The choices we make, the actions we take, the thoughts we entertain, the words we express, the knowledge we employ, the impressions we leave, the beliefs we hold dear, the people we connect with… all of these aspects of life co-exist and comingle into a cohesive, comprehensive life.

It only makes sense that, if I am going to write, the approach to my words should be holistic as well.  My faith informs my worldview, as do your beliefs in your life.  What I see, what I experience and witness and hear… all these things come into play.

I have been overly myopic in my writing.

I have been overly myopic in my life.

My writing needs to reflect an adventurous spirit.  Faith in Christ is not boring.  It’s not some staid set of religious rules and regs to follow with rigidity.  True faith is expressed in action, in what we do and why.

God created all of life, and He allows us to enjoy His creation.  For that, we should be most thankful.

And He created us to live life as a holistic experience.  And, the more we experience, the better we relate with others – the stronger our ability to empathize, to understand, to love.

So I am expanding my repertoire.  If I eat at a great restaurant, I’m going to tell you about it.  If I read a great book, I’m going to pass that along (like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, an emotionally tough yet spiritually rewarding read).  If I know someone is hurting, I’m going to reach out.

I will still write devotionals.  My heart hasn’t changed about helping people overcome anxiety and depression.  But if I can inspire people to lighten up and enjoy life, that also helps lift the dark clouds that descend over our lives.

So it’s time to break the Groundhog Day Syndrome.  Sometimes I’ll write humor.  Sometimes I’ll write on theology.  Sometimes I’ll write about Indiana and the things that make me homesick.  Always I will take a holistic approach.  Always my faith will be at the center, even if it doesn’t appear so overtly.

Just the thought of breaking out into unchartered territory with my writing is giving me goose bumps.  I pray that I can write in a way that gives you goose bumps as well.

For now, I’d better go change this shirt.

What I Learned / Am Learning From (Writing About) Lola, or Taste the Fennel

I have a long way to go when doing foodie writing.  That Pizzeria Lola piece I wrote last night was a mess.  I left so much out.

I should have told you how the smoky flavor of the charred crust absolutely dances on your tongue.

I should have told you how the Iowan is basically comfort food on a pizza crust.  How the sweetness of the camelized onions balanced so nicely with the garlic, and how it was like your mother’s au gratin potatoes kicked up a notch or twelve.

I should have told you their home-ground sausage have just the right spice, and the toasted fennel seeds really bring out the flavor.

I should have told you that Lola serves Coca-Cola – C-O-L-A cola.  (OK.  That’s my one and only reference to the Kinks’ song.)

I should have told you my eight-year-old gave it a thumb’s up – and that’s saying something!

Unlike Pizzeria Lola, what I served was sub-par.  I apologize.

So, here is what I am gleaning from this (in)experience:

1. Hour #18 of a very long day may not be the best time to write, especially in unchartered territory.

2. Hour #18 of a very long day may not be the best time to post what I write, especially in unchartered territory.

3. Sloooooowwwww dooooowwwwwwnnnnn, Speed Racer.

4. Help the reader actually taste the food I write about, even if they have never tasted it.

5. Avoid coming across as too jazzed about my subject.  Basically I told everyone, “It’s really great!”  Heck, my eight-year-old could have done that.  (At least I avoided the word “very”.)

6.  Focus.  Balance.  Edit.

7. Refocus.  Rebalance.  Re-edit.

8. Repeat step seven.

9. Repeat step eight.

10.  Do not press “send” until you can taste the fennel seeds through your words, and feel the ambience of the music and the din of the conversations and the huge copper wood-fired oven in the center of the small, crowded dining space.

I will do better next time.

Lola… don’t change a thing.