The Gospel Race (or Kick the Bucket List)


Photo by Jon Pallbo.  Public domain.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. – 1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV)

I like the idea of a bucket list.  You know, a list of things you want to accomplish on this earth while you’re still here.  Maybe you’ve seen the movie of the same name.  (If so, you understand why I will ever accept a cup of coffee from Jack Nicholson.)

I have a lot of things I’d like to do and places I’d dig visiting.  I’d like to learn painting from Peter Max.  Go to Iceland and Ireland.  Write a book that helps millions of people overcome life’s struggles and find peace through Jesus.  Meet some of the great writers and artists and musicians and find out what really makes them tick (creatively, that is).  Maybe take a class at the U on Norwegian egg slicing.

Most of all, I would love to have all the people I love, gathered together in one big room or park (weather permitting), and they would all get to know one another and love each other and be happy together.  I, of course, would DJ the event (and no one would complain about my odd musical selections).  We would talk about God and the wonderful things He is doing in our lives… That would be the top of my list.

I realize many of the items on my list are doable.  Or at least plausible.  

Except perhaps the egg slicing class.  I hear it fills up fast.

But, really, a bucket list is nothing more than a collection of self indulgent wants (if what we wish to do isn’t for the right reasons).  Paul exhorts us to focus our lives on running the Gospel Race.  Seeking Christ at all times, in all things.  Following His lead, not a wanna-do playlist.  

Running the Gospel Race isn’t easy.  There are potholes in the road.  Distracting billboards advertising every earthly pleasure known to man.  Wrecks ahead. Trees in the road.  Times when we nearly run out of fuel.  Flat tires, spent water pumps, broken serpentine belts, road kill, empty windshield washer fluid tanks…

But running the Gospel Race is worth every difficult mile.  The reason is that this race is run with Love, and Grace, and Mercy.  We are blessed by being a blessing in the name of Christ.  When we race long and far enough, we look in the rear view mirror and see Jesus with us every mile of the trip.  

And we realize that God never leaves us, never abandons us.

And our faith is strengthened.

And our hearts fill beyond capacity with joy.

And we realize no bucket list could ever be better than the great and wondrous gift of knowing the Lord.

We all have dreams.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing right desires.  But everything we do – everything – has to be pursued in the light of following Jesus and running our Gospel Race first and foremost.

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. -Psalm 37:3-6, ESV

Now that’s something to put on a bucket list!


The Overly Speculative Case of the Blue Robin Egg


There it lay.  The beautiful remains of a radiant blue robin egg, cracked in two and void of its contents.  Directly above, perched in the high limbs of an elm tree, sits a bird’s nest.  It, too, is empty – void of its contents.

What happened here?  Was it a tragic accident?  Did mama robin spread her wings in some fast muscular spurt, accidentally knocking her egg from its high perch?

Maybe it was a horrendous murderous plot.  Perhaps the beautiful blue egg caught the attention of some nasty raptor, circling high above.  He could has swooped down, snatched the egg, slurped down the yolk and ditched the evidence.  That might explain the wide tire tracks ear the scene: a police investigative truck, or a local television film crew who came to report on the gruesome discovery.

It could also be that the tracks came from the mobile production of a cable outdoor or cooking network.  Maybe they were producing a show on fine cooking outdoors, honing a recipe for poached robin egg served with a delightful trout roe.  However, this seems the least plausible explanation.  The TV chef would most likely have used the egg shell halves as decorative cups for the caviar.  Besides, there was no evidence of ichthyological ovum extraction.

There is also the chance that this was a politically motivated act of unspeakable horror.  Maybe the rebellious mama robin refused to give in to territorial demands of the local starlings.  Maybe she defied the bullying crows and built a nest on their turf.  Maybe the baby robin-to-be was the victim of a border skirmish, or aviary racism.

Maybe mama robin fell in with a bad flock.  This may have been the deadly result of a deal gone wrong, an act if revenge against a wayward robin.

Maybe some national news network should do an weeklong series of reports highlighting the problems plaguing today’s young bird population.  The violent rampages of local starlings.  The rise in tragic accidents involving robin eggs in elm trees.  

All based on nothing more than finding an egg shell in the grass beneath a tree. 

Or maybe… just maybe… maybe the baby bird hatched.  Maybe the world’s newest robin emerged from his prenatal shell, ate worms, grew feathers, spread his wings and flew off into the freedom and purpose God gave him.

Of course, that wouldn’t sell much advertising, would it?

My Eight Year Old is an EF5!


“…we all stumble in many ways”. – James 3:2a (ESV)

My son is the greatest kid on earth!  Not that I’m biased or anything.  Every parent should think their kidlet(s) is/are the greatest on earth.  My boy is a little guy with a big heart and curious mind.  Very smart.  Very athletic.  Fantastic at gymnastics.  Funny. Determined. Excels in his career as a second grader.  Biggest grin in the county.  Handsome.  Loves animals.

I could go on for hours.  And will.  Just ask anyone who makes the mistake of asking me about him.  Out comes the phone and the photos.

My child is wonderful.  But he is not perfect.  In fact, in one area especially, he needs some help.

The problem: my eight year old is a human tornado.  Looking at the Enhanced Fujita Scale, I would rate my child an EF5: the most destructive tornado there is.  Capable of producing wind speeds in excess of 200 mph (322 km/h for our Canadian and European friends), and EF5 is capable of total, massive destruction.  It can level a town or throw a vehicle up to one mile.

OK.  Maybe he’s more like an EF1.  But still, those will mess up a roof in a hurry, or bust out windows.

Poor kid… You’d think he’d get the hint.  After “I love you”, “great job” and “stop doing that”, his mom and I’s most commonly uttered phrase to him: “Pick that up.”  Or any one of a number of variants on that particular theme.

When he walks in a room, toys, games and various and sundry objects he absolutely no business touching in the first place, fly off their shelves and cupboards behind him.  He tears through the house, leaving a path of destruction in his wake.

When he enters a town, tornado sirens wail.

The Weather Channel has crew camped in our front yard.

But if all we did was focus on his poor messiness habit, we would miss all the wonderful things about our kid.  They would diminish.

It is the same with life.  Life has a poor messiness habit.  It can tear through your home, your family, your work… leaving a path of destruction that my son would consider a challenge to his throne.

So what do we do?  In my son’s case, we keep reminding him to pick up after himself.  And, if the mess is too big, we help him.  But we don’t dwell in his inner EF5.  We accentuate the positive as the old song goes, and work on the rest.  We help him along, praise him often, correct him when needed, love him at all times.

When troubles rips through your world, you can’t sit and stare at the damage.  Look at the rest of the world around you.  Find beauty.  Most importantly, look to God.  He is there for you.  He will help you clean up the mess.  He corrects us when needed, but He loves us – loves you – at all times.

And there is nothing more beautiful than that.

Be thankful.  Stay faithful.  Ask.  Seek.  Knock.  God is with you always – even / especially in the storms.

Shabbat Shalom

6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8  do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10  For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” – Psalms 95:6-11 (ESV)

Shabbat Shalom – Peaceful Sabbath.  A day set aside by God for His children that we may rest from our work and reflect on what God has done for us.  Right?


But the idea of Sabbath goes far deeper than that.

In chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Hebrews, the writer quotes from the above passage five times, emphasizing verses 7, 8 and 11.  As he expounds on the meaning of this psalm, God reveals – not surprisingly – that our problem is not one of failure to observe the law.  (Which is good news for me, because I am breaking one of the Talmud’s 39 prohibited tasks on Sabbath by writing this.  However, since this is the Christian Sabbath – a very early Sunday morning – and the Jewish Sabbath is Friday evening to Saturday evening, I think I get beat the rap on a technicality.)

Our problem stems from the heart.  It is our sin, our disobedience, that keeps us from God.  For the Israelites, it was forty years of disobedience in the desert – hardening their hearts toward God, making idols (remember the whole golden calf episode?), complaining even when God provided manna from heaven to eat… Don’t misunderstand me.  I have no doubts that those forty years were hard.  A nomadic lifestyle cannot be easy.

The problem is this: in all their negativity, their complaining, their discomfort, they forgot the simple fact that God had saved them from their captivity in Egypt.  He had sent plagues upon the Egyptians and parted the Red Sea for them to pass safely.  They were now free and on their way to their Promised Land.

But they took it all for granted.  The Israelites were not exactly thankful.  In fact, they were ready to trade in their freedom in the Lord for slavery and some onions.  And cucumbers.

Flavorless cucumbers.

Sin has an almost chameleon-like character.  It appears beautiful, delicious, fun, harmless…  But when we bite into the fruit we discover the sweetness is fleeting.  The regret is far worse than the happiness of the moment.  The cost is more than we realized.  The reason: sin appeals to our foolish, self-centered nature.  “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11, ESV).

My dog would do that.

She’s not that bright.

Evidently, neither am I.

But… our heart condition need not be fatal.

6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
        “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. – Hebrews 4:6-10 (ESV)

God is patient.  Very very patient.  “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9, ESV).

However, Peter also points out that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10, ESV).

So don’t drag your feet.  Listen for the voice of the Lord and say “yes.”  The writer of Hebrews says we need to fear God – to respect Him in awe-filled reverence and understand Who He is and who we are – “while the promise of entering his rest still stands” (Hebrews 4:1, ESV).

Today – right now – on this Sabbath – seek the Lord.  Cast upon Him your cares and your doubts.  Drop the worries.  Walk away from the sin that ensnares, or the shame of past instances that freezes you.  Remember why Jesus came here and died on the cross:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoeverdoes what is truecomes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:16-21 (ESV)

Rest in the Lord and His goodness.  Remember that He created it all and rested.  Remember that He is in control and has given us salvation, doing for us what we could not do ourselves.  Set aside all that holds you back from God and bask in His holiness with faith and gratitude.  Not just on one day, but every day.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

Shabbat Shalom.

Weeds, Seeds, and Basic Needs (or Photomorphogenesis for the Soul)


“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” – Galatians 6:7 (ESV)

No plant grows without having first been planted.  The seed is placed in the ground and begins soaking in water.  The water causes the contents of the seed to energize and grow and form until a root pushes out of the seed jacket.  The root grows into the soil, taking in more nutrients and, soon enough, a shoot emerges from the seed.  Once the shoot emerges from the soil and starts taking in light, it begins to grow.


The seed one chooses to plant is important.  If you want to grow roses, you don’t plant daisies.  Sunflower seeds will not magically produce an apple tree.

Still, even in the best tended gardens, weeds take root.  They blow in from fields, drop in via birds, and grow an unwanted crop.  And, if left to grow, they will take over the garden and choke out the seeds you planted, robbing them of nutrients and sunlight.

Our lives are no different.  We sow seed in our lives every day with our words and actions and thoughts.  When we bless others, we reap great blessing from God – in due time.

Every seed takes time to germinate, grow and produce fruit (or flowers, etc…).  When a plant is exposed to light, it begins to mature and green up and leaf out.  This process is called photomorphogenesis.  Believers in Christ mature spiritually when nourished by The Light as well.  We feed our souls on the Word of God and follow His will.

But when weeds invade the garden – sin, self-centeredness, fear, anger, you name it – we have to pull the unwanted growth by the roots.  It has to go, before its roots grow too deep and the problem runs roughshod over our garden.

No garden is perfect, just as no human being is.  But we must be careful to plant good seed that we may produce an abundant crop.  We need to give thanks to God Who produces the good crop within us.  And we must be sure to tend to our garden, staying illuminated in His light and fed by His Word.  It is in Jesus that we find our basic spiritual needs to grow and thrive and be a blessing to others, and bring honor and glory to God (which is, after all, our original created purpose).

Love your enemies.  Love one another.  Be bold in faith.  Bring hope.  Bring joy.  Bring comfort.  Be salt.  Be light.

Time to Relocate


24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:  25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.  26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:  27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. – Matthew 7:24-27 (KJV)

There is a tight connection between wisdom and faith.  By faith, we learn to rely on God and His wisdom, as opposed to our flawed ways and understanding.  This is especially true during times of anxiety and fear.

Anxious thoughts cloud our ability to think rationally.  Instead of truly turning our troubles over to the Lord, understanding that He is greater than anything we fear, we mull over our fears.  When we keep turning our troubles over and over in our heads, the fear builds and grows until it becomes overwhelming.

When we put our faith in anything but the Lord – following our fears instead of choosing to take God at His Word – we are choosing the foolish path.  We are building our house on shifting sand.  And all it takes is one shift of the ground and our foundation will crumble.

When we trust God, basing our decisions and thoughts and direction on His Word, resting in His goodness, knowing He works all things to do the good of those who love Him, then we are truly following the path of wisdom.  True wisdom is from God, and requires faith.  The two provide a firm foundation upon which to build and grow.  

When anxious thoughts and dark clouds of worry begin to gather, don’t stare at them.  When you feel the ground beneath you shift, don’t panic.  Go to the Lord.  Be purposeful in casting off your anxieties and taking up His yoke of joy and peace instead.  Trust God over and above what you perceive and find rest in Him.  Move out of the house built on sand before it erodes beneath your foundation and drags you down with it.

Trust God.  He is our solid, immovable, unshakable foundation.  He is our Rock, our Fortress, our Ever Present Help.  if you find you are dwelling on a sandy base, it is time to move.  After all, location is everything.

Doggone, Malchus.  That Might Leave a Mark…

 Le’arrestation du Christ (artist unknown, circa 1520).  Photo by Rama.  From the collection of Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon.

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (ESV)

Malchus didn’t deserve it.  It wasn’t his fault he was the slave of the high priest.  He can’t be blamed for encountering Jesus’ hot headed disciple Peter.  He probably didn’t sign up to sacrifice his ear for the good of the order.

And when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus as He prayed in the garden, Peter decided the right thing to do was to get in touch with his inner Erroll Flynn, swashbuckling Malchus’ ear clean from his skull.  

Peter was ready to battle on the Lord’s behalf.

How did Jesus – the One being wrongly arrested – respond?

He didn’t thank Peter.  No high fives or thumbs up.  Instead Jesus rebuked His disciple, ordering him to sheath his sword.  Then He healed Malchus’ ear.

It is easy to stand up against those who oppose our beliefs.  Just ask any of the people who stand up against Christians and the Bible and Jesus.  It is easy to get angry at those who push their agendas against another group.  (And before any of you start crying “foul”… yes, there are Christians with agendas to push as well.)

But, instead of getting mad and grumbling and yelling, why not take a stand for Christ and His way of doing things?  When we stand up against our enemies and belittle or slander them, are we any better?  Even if we are right, are we not called to love our enemies?  Do we think God is so weak that He needs us to defend Him against those who oppose Him?  

We are called to be disciples – followers / students / replicators of Christ.  There were times when Jesus was very blunt with the religious Pharisees, but when it came to pagan Romans, Christ didn’t engage them in arguments.  

Consider the Roman centurion who approached Jesus in Cana (see John 4:46-53).  Jesus didn’t give the Roman theological reasoning for why He was the Son of God. He didn’t show the centurion the error of his Pagan ways.  He met a need.  He healed the man’s son from about 23 miles away – a day’s walk in Jesus’ time.

The Roman centurion came to faith in Christ not through crafty arguments or cutting debate skills.  Jesus was his only hope, and he knew it.  He came to Christ, and the Lord mercifully, lovingly, received him. 

Yes, there is a difference here between the Roman centurion and those who attack Christianity today.  The Roman was desperate for help and needed someone to save His son.  Those who stand against think they can handle it all on their own.  

Sometimes a person has to come to the end of his rope before he seeks Jesus.  It is in the darkest of times that we crave the light so deeply.  And, for those who seek the Lord, He is always there.  Never early.  Never late.

Instead of opposing our enemies, love them.  Feed them.  Give them your other cheek.  Pray for them.  Do not speak ill of them.  None of us has any idea of what lies ahead, and how God will use those circumstances to reach us.

Don’t follow the easy path.  Stand up for Christ by loving others.  Even / especially our enemies.

Why Do We Spend So Much Time Worrying? (or Yes, Virginia, They Really Give You a Hot Towel)

  “Trust me”, the airline employee assured me.  “I will get you on this plane.  Just trust me.”
Hartsfiel International Airport was a very busy place that Sunday afternoon, and we had just been bumped from our flight to Minneapolis.  I had to get home.  That day.  

And I was nervous.  I had to be at work the next day.  If I didn’t get home that evening, the world would shift on its axis, the polar caps melt, the tides rise, the liberals embrace George W. Bush… Truly dire straits. Confusion and chaos would reign.

All because I missed a flight.

Soon the people were lining up to board.  These folks were going home.  As the queue shortened, I approached the young man behind the desk again.  “Sir, just sit down.  I promised I would get you on this plane.  Do you trust me?”

I didn’t trust him.  I didn’t know him.  But I didn’t had a choice.  I pondered calling my congressman, but I doubt he could do much to help me.  I prayed.

Just as the last passengers were entering the jetway, my new friend approached us with boarding passes.

For first class.

“Enjoy your flight, sir”, he said smiling.  I hugged him tightly, only letting go when a TSA officer threatened to taze me if I didn’t step away and board my flight.  Now.

I sat down in the seat, sinking into the leather.  I enjoyed every bite of the turkey sandwich on multigrain bread.  I sipped my sparkling water.  

And, yes, the flight attendant handed out hot towels.  My pores opened with great glee, enjoying thoroughly the cleansing heat and humidity that drew all of remaining stress right out.

When I inquired about the complimentary foot rubs, the TSA officer reappeared.  

I abandoned that particular line of thought. 

We worry about so many things.  And when things don’t go our way, we want to immediately jump in and fix the situation – our way.  But, if we pray about the situation and wait for the Lord, we will find that God will fix our problems in such a blessed way… You may find yourself flying first class on a coach ticket.

Don’t worry about anything.  Trust God in all things, at all times, through all situations.  And watch Him work everything out to His glory and your good.


My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. – John 10:27-28 (ESV)

We live in a society that doesn’t exactly promote quiet.  Stillness is a fading art that we need to regain.  For it is in stillness that we can hear God.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “…when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, ESV).  The broader context of Jesus’ words is an admonition against hypocrisy, praying loudly in public to put their personal “holiness” on display.

But, look deeper at Jesus’ prayer habits.  He tended to go off alone, and communicate deeply with His Father – Our Father.  He got away from all the distractions – including His disciples.  Jesus was always aware of the Father’s presence and guidance.

Part of hearing the Lord – along with spending time in His Word and prayer – is simple stillness.  It is in quiet – away from the distractions, the busyness, the thoughts and white noise that inhabit the fabric of our days – that we are best prepared to hear and meditate on what God has to say.

Listening to God isn’t some mystical practice (although there is no denying a spiritual component to our relationship with God – He is Spirit after all).  This is practical, tangible reality.  It is when we are still, surrounded by quiet, that we are calmed to the point of being able to tune in (if you will) to the Lord and what He has to say.

And what He has to say is far more important than what we have to say.  We so often think prayer time is just an opportunity to dump a to-do list of blessings on God (asked in gratitude, of course) that we miss the true blessing of prayer – the honor and joy of communicating with the Creator of the Universe.

Not that we shouldn’t go to God with our needs or pray for others.  Absolutely we should!  But remember, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8, ESV).  Far more amazing is getting to spend time with God!  You know, the Burning Bush, the One Moses couldn’t look at directly.  The God Who is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, is also intimate with His children, one-on-one, in prayer.

Today I want to encourage you – if you aren’t already doing it – to find a quiet place, wherever works for you, and develop a daily habit of time with you and God.  Somewhere you can take a few minutes with a Bible and a notepad and pen and just be.

Seek God in quiet and stillness.  Allow no distractions.  Think about the Lord.  Meditate on His Word.  Talk to Him but, most importantly, listen.

In peace.

In stillness.

In worship and adoration.

With joy.

With faith.

With love.

Tick Tick Tick


 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12 (ESV)

Another digit has rolled over on the odometer.  And, yes, I am old enough to remember when numbers actually -literally – rolled over with each tenth-of-a-mile.  There was no digital display on the dashboard to tell us how far we have travelled, how much gas we’re going to use, or how long until we get to grandma’s house. (Not that this created a problem for my parents.  One of my grandma’s lived in town about 6 miles away, the other was just a walk through a corn field, so my brother and I never really pestered them with the constant “are we there yet?” inquiries as we drove over the river – well, the little stream – and through the woods.)

Time has a funny way of seeming far less constant the older I get.  Which is a little cruel, because time seems to be speeding up.  Today we took my son to a movie.  He sat on my lap for the last half of the show.  I looked at his face and could still see my little guy.  I patted his back and tried to revel in the moment because, soon enough, he won’t be sitting on my lap anymore.  As my wife noted on our way home, he starts middle school in just over three years.

Three years.  It will be seven years ago next month he became our son.  Seven years ago and I can still close my eyes and walk nearly every inch of Shamain Island from memory.  I can feel the subtropical heat and humidity.  I can smell the Pearl River.  When we go out to Chinese restaurants there are still certain smells that take me back to Guangzhou.  

I remember getting up in the middle of the night in our room at the White Swan Hotel, peering down at that beautiful child in the crib and praying, “Lord, please don’t let me mess him up.”

I remember him eating watermelon for the first time – quite an adventure for an 18 month old whose diet had been mainly congee (a gruel made of rice and little bits of chicken with a flavor as flat as a slashed tire).  

I can still see him revving up from a waddle to a run on the high gloss floor of the hotel’s lower level, only to wipe out, giggle, get up and do it all over again.

I have so many vivid memories that I could write a book.  And perhaps someday I will.

Seven years ago and it feels like yesterday.

How fast will three years go?

I think about my time management skills (I noticed nobody has endorsed me on LinkedIn for time management – and rightfully so).  I get older and feel this ever-intensifying anxiety that life is passing me by.  We moved to Minnesota so I could become a pastor.  All I have to show for it is three college diplomas on my office wall and student loans.

But then I stop and think.  I talk with my dear friend Greg, who is in many ways my compass (sorry buddy… I realize that is a cross no human should bear).  I look back on my life thus far and I see God’s hand all the way through.  It is probably good that I didn’t become a traditional church pastor.  The politics of it all would have burned me out faster than a cheap sparkler on the 4th of July.

Had we never come to Minnesota, we would have missed out on a lot of wisdom we’ve learned from failing, falling, getting up again and going.

We would have missed out on some of the closest relationships we have ever formed.

We would have never known how it feels to live in a metro area with so many professional sports teams who play so lousy.  (Although, props to the Minnesota Lynx, our WNBA team who know how to rock the court, and the minor league St. Paul Saints, who know how to throw a fun-filled baseball game.)

Most of all, had we never moved to Minnesota, we would never have gotten our son.

God knows what He is doing.  He knew it when He moved us to suburban Chicago, and later to Minnesota.  He has a plan for us.  I can see that.  I can’t necessarily see the end of it, but I see that it is clearly there.  And He is clearly here.

Ok, so my life hasn’t exactly gone to my plan.  Looking back, that is a good thing in more ways than I can count.  It means I have a future.  I continue to grow in wisdom.  I learn to count the days – to be mindful of what’s important and why I’m here.  And it has nothing to do with career.  It is about who I am because God said so, not because of my plans.

I learn to lean on God. I learn to understand that, when things don’t go my way, it is usually God stepping in to save my sorry bacon.

Had life gone my way, I would be disillusioned, burnt out, and – worst of all – not a daddy.  Forget time management.  Just trust the Lord with every step and, remember, He operates outside the bounds of space and time.  Don’t sweat the clock.  Rejoice and be glad in the Lord all of the days He gives you.