Much like your parents attic, treasured memories lay within. So, wipe the dust off my ruminations and remembrances, sit back and enjoy!

Of Weddings and Kindness

The weekend before last, the kids, Lisa and I went back to Iowa. It was my nephew (on Amy’s side) Blake’s and his fiancĂ©e Amanda’s wedding. The plan was that as the kids and I would go to the wedding and reception, while Lisa would spend some time with my family getting to know them better (and finding out some secrets about me from my sisters no doubt!). About a week or a little more before the wedding, Kelly, Amy’s older sister and Blake’s mother, called me and extended an invitation for Lisa to come to the wedding and reception. I was a bit surprised, but very happy for her thoughtfulness in stepping forward like she did. Many people wouldn’t have done this, in fact, given similar circumstances; many people wouldn’t want anything to do with a new person let alone invite them to a very special family event like a wedding. Yes, there were some tears, but Lisa was very warmly received and we had many conversations with the ‘fam’ throughout the evening. Amy was sorely missed…she would have wanted to have been there as Blake was our ring bearer in our wedding, not to mention that Hope was one of the flower girls (she was excited beyond belief to have this honor!) and Amy would have been such a proud mom to see her.
Thank you Kelly…thank you everyone for taking that first step and for making Lisa feel as welcomed as you did! You have no idea how much that meant to me…

Ephesians 3:20-21 'Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.'

~ V

The Baton, the Race and the Brownies

…Here she comes around the last curve of her last lap. I’m ready…knees bent…arm back and palm open. I bounce in anticipation as she runs nearer and my heart beats faster, ready for the hand off. As she closes to within 20 yards, I start to jog and I pick up the pace as she closes to within 10. Leaving my arm back, I no longer watch as I start to run harder…coming up to speed and before I know it, I feel the cold, smooth cylinder slap the palm of my hand and my fingers close around the baton…

Thanks for the hand off hon! If you are reading this and are completely confused right now, you need to go to Lisa’s BLOG entry for today to get caught up! But before I get to the story that Lisa mentioned, this whole idea of passing the baton, running a race and having a teammate got me to thinking. Hebrews 12;1-2 says, ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ‘ Running a marathon…the exertion and pain as well as the dedication, training and stamina needed to finish such a race in many ways mirrors our Christian walk. We encounter hazards and distractions almost on a daily basis and at times we are faced with a choice and if we choose poorly or haven’t prepared and read our ‘map’ of the course, we can stray from the path and soon become lost…taken out of the race. Take a quick look at the top of my BLOG, under the title…It’s a good thing that we have our trail guide! Jesus has gone out before us and knows the course intimately! As long as we ‘fix our eyes’ on Him and refuse to let ourselves become distracted, our pace can be steady. Now, how much easier is it to run with a partner? To have someone run along side of you, encouraging you each step of the way…to help push you just a little further…to persevere. The same is true for our daily walk with the Lord…reading, praying and discussing life, His word and our troubles with another, eases our burden and helps us not to not feel alone. Matthew 18:20 says ‘For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.’ Think about that a second…when you pray with your spouse or your friend or just another Christian, He says that He’s THERE in the midst of what you’re doing, listening and worshiping with you! That’s incredible!

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.’

Ephesians 4:29 ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’

Hebrews 10:25 ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’

I am thankful for the encouragement that Lisa provides to me. When I get discouraged about something, she is always quick with a word of encouragement or a wise word and although there are times when I may not snap right out of my ‘funk’, she has planted the seed of encouragement which grows and just the fact that she’s there and cares enough to ‘plant’ it is always appreciated!

Brownies. Hmmm, yes…

Psalms 101:3a ‘I will set before my eyes no vile thing.’

I was listening to Focus on the Family on my IPod the other day (I download the podcast for the current day and listen to it, and many others, throughout my work day) and the discussion centered around teenagers and what they consider as acceptable today as compared to even what I considered as acceptable when I was a teen. More specifically, what is shown and available in movies these days. About a month ago, I went to the video rental store here in Baraboo and was actually appalled to see that close to 75% of the movies that were on the new releases wall(s) were what I call ‘hack and slash’ movies. It seems to me that blood and gore co-mingled with near-nudity and sex have come into the mainstream. When I was a kid, yes, we had our share of horror movies, but it seems to me with the SAW and HOSTEL movies, they have taken 'horror' to a new level. It’s bad enough to have a monster unleash a killing spree, but now it’s about torture and maiming and showing these acts in vivid, graphic detail. One has to wonder what these images do to the minds of our teenagers. Anyway…A story was related about two teenagers who approached their father about going to a movie. The father asked what the movie was about and the kids said that the movie was super hyped and that all of their friends have been talking about it for weeks about how it’s going to be a blockbuster and set ALL types of sales records within the first week. Again, the father asked what it was about. What the father gathered from what his kids told him about the movie was that it portrayed graphic violence, blood, gore and a highly sexual scene that while not showing any nudity (so it can be PG-13, I’m sure), didn’t leave much to the imagination. The kids ended their sales pitch by telling their father the movie had just a little bit of bad in it and when compared to how great the rest of it would be, it would hardly be noticed. The father told his kids that he’d think about it and let them know his decision tomorrow. The next day, the father called his kids into the dinning room and on the table before him was a plate of brownies. The father explains to his children that he has decided to let them go to the movie…on one condition. All smiles and excited, the kids say ‘Sure! Anything!’ The father proceeds to tell them that they can go to the movie if and only if they have one of his brownies. However, just like the movie, the brownies have pros and cons. He assures them that the brownies are made with the finest chocolate that he could find and with the freshest ingredients that could be bought and personally handmade from scratch. The downside was that he added just a little bit of dog poop to the brownies, but that he made sure to mix it in really well and that he’s sure that any bacteria would have been killed during baking. He went on to say that it was jst a little bit of dog poop and that he was certain that with the high quality of the rest of the ingredients, they would hardly notice. The kids were aghast! They were shocked that their father would want them eat something that was so disgusting and they told him as much! He asked them, ‘Then why on Earth would I allow you to take into your mind anything so vile, so filthy as the movie as you have asked me to allow you to see?’ Philippians 4:8 says this - ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’ Hmmm, something to think about. We are constantly bombarded with the images that the world tells us are acceptable…would you want to look at these things with the eyes of Christ? If not…why are you looking at them with yours?

What are you mixing into your brownies?

~ V

So…how foolish are you?

1 Cor 3:18

On our very first date, Lisa gave me a small desk calendar as a gift. Through the previous weeks of talking on the phone, she discovered that I like to golf and this daily desktop calendar combines photos of beautiful golf courses and a daily Bible verse. Today's verse says this: 'Let no one deceive themselves. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.' That verse brought to mind an earlier verse in the 1st chapter of the same book. Verse 27 says, 'But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.' That verse has always impressed me. I'm not sure if it's the stark contrast that is portrayed or the whole 'let's root for the underdog' theme, but it shows me how exactly diametrically opposed the world's view is compared to God's.

Being called a fool isn't always an insult…for example, when someone says that he or she is 'a golfing fool' or a 'shopping fool', it really means that the person is ridiculously committed to whatever activity they are diligently pursuing. Are you ridiculously committed to Jesus Christ? Shouldn't we be so ridiculously committed to Him, that we crave to know Him better? Crave to love Him deeper? Crave to put feet and action to our faith. Shouldn't we be so ridiculously committed to Him that just like the need of a firefighter to save the residents of a burning building, we should approach each person we come in contact with the need to share Christ. Ridiculously focused, ridiculously tenacious, with a ridiculous amount of love and patience! We should be so ridiculous about it that we can't help but want to talk to Him and about Him…live in Him and for Him...so ridiculous about Him that we give up what we've been, in exchange for what we can become...

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There'll be a drop of grace
If we can reach Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
They will find peace
And I'll meet you in that place
Where mercy leads
(as taken from Rich Mullins song - Let Mercy Lead)

~ V

Attention to Detail…

I want you to take 10 minutes, go outside and take a walk. Don’t take your cell phone or IPod or anything else that could distract you while you’re out there. I want you to shut all cares of life and thoughts of what you need to do today out of your mind and focus on the sights, sounds and smells of creation. Keenly observe what’s happening on the ground or in the trees. Listen intently to the sounds of the birds and squirrels…even the sound of the wind through the leaves. Inhale deeply the scents of autumn. Pick up and feel the texture of a leaf or the fine hairs on a wooly caterpillar. Go do this right now, I will still be here when you get back…

It only takes a few minutes looking outside to realize the awesome beauty, splendor and minute detail of God’s creation. I think this is especially true in the fall, where the very changing of the leaves provides a vibrant ‘canvas’ that displays Gods masterpiece of purpose, order and beauty. If you went and sat on the ground and observed the insects and animals during this time of the year, they too are changing and preparing as their fur grows thicker to accommodate the impending winter and they work to store up food so they will not starve during the coldest days of January. Are these changes and actions just some random evolutionary event? Have they been thrown together haphazardly by some cosmic randomizer? Not a chance! These things do not occur out of chaos, if they did, why would winter follow fall each year, why does the Earth spin on its axis at the same rate instead of randomly changing speed and rotation? No, rather they are well ordered and specifically timed…planned by design. The bible says (Matt 6: 26-32) that if the Lord concerns Himself with the delicate beauty of the flower or the feeding of the birds, how much MORE does He care and want to take care of us?! Ok, now I’m going to stretch your thought process a little here…If you can see God’s masterful beauty and plan in the lilies of the field and the beat of the hummingbird’s wings, can you see the stroke of the Master’s hand and the drafting of His perfect plan through the trials, testings and even tragedies this life brings us? There are MANY things that happen to us during the course of our lives that we may not understand; the death of a loved one, a divorce or even loss of income or property. These times are VERY painful and there may even come times when you drop to your knees and cry out ‘WHY GOD???!!! WHY???!!! Where are you in my time of need?’ But even in these trying and troubled situations, Gods hand is at work! 1 Thessalonians 3:3 says this ‘…None of you should turn back because of these persecutions. You yourselves know that such persecutions are part of God’s will for us.’ And in 1 Peter 4:12-13, ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ And also in 1 Peter 1:6-7 ‘This means tremendous joy to you, even though at present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident--it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire.’ I believe that God also uses these times to prepare us for His use. God’s plan for each of us is perfect and perfectly planned down to the finest detail. Take the story of Chuck Colson for example. A former Nixon White House aide during the 1970’s Watergate scandal, he plead guilty to obstruction of justice and was sent to prison for a period of time. Shortly before he was sentenced, A man by the name of Tom Phillips pointed him to Christ and Chuck humbly cried out, "God, take me as I am.” During his incarceration, Chuck observed first hand the hopelessness and desperation his fellow convicts displayed. God started a work in Chuck the very day he stepped into prison and after his release, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries as a way to provide hope and real change into these men and their families. Who better to empathize with a prisoner then a fellow ex-convict? Who better to empathize with a grieving child than someone who has also lost a parent? These people, acutely aware of the pain and struggles one has to endure, can more readily identify with the individual and the love of Christ can pour out and through them into hearts of the people God brings into their lives.

Romans 5: 3-5 says: ‘but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’

Wow! Twice in 1 Peter and now in Romans, we are told not only to expect difficult trials, but we’re admonished to rejoice when they occur! How does that work? I mean, it’s one thing to read this and acknowledge what it says…it’s quite another to put it into practice. Believe me; I know…Does that mean you don’t have moments of weakness where you cry out to God? Or where you wonder why this is happening or why God doesn’t change the situation? NOT AT ALL! But it DOES matter where you turn to during these times. Do you turn to God and seek His peace, comfort and solace? Or do you turn to the world and let yourself become embittered and set yourself on a pathway to further pain and destruction? Ok, but practically, how do we do this? How can we rejoice in the face disaster, pain and loss? In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are told, ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ …look at it this way, every thought that enters our mind is processed. We take information, think about it, sort it and use it to formulate decisions and actions. As this information enters our minds, we need to take control of it immediately and hold it up to the truths and teachings of Christ and sometimes even make a seemingly innocent thought submit to God’s will (i.e. you might have the opportunity to make $10,000 more a year in a new job, the job itself isn’t bad or wrong, but if it isn’t God’s will then you have to submit to God’s will). To help us in this mental battle (yes, it IS a battle), Philippians 4:8 tells us, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with missing Lisa and the fact that we live 2 hours apart and only get to see each other on weekends. I’ve been focusing on the downside of things and by doing that, have been letting Satan steal the joy from the moments we do have together. I don’t want to do that anymore! I want to enjoy and hold dear every moment Lisa and I spend together and rejoice in the Lord that we are able to see each other as often as we do! Will I still wrestle with the loneliness and the need to see Lisa more? I’m sure of it! But, now instead of accepting a mopey attitude, I can hold those thoughts captive and focus on the lovely things, the admirable, pure and true things that God has done in my life. And so I’ve found that it’s very difficult to maintain any justification for my mopiness when I fill my thoughts with praises for my heavenly Father or when I contemplate the vast number of blessings He has lavished on my unworthy and at times, unthankful soul.

…Can you see Him in the details of your life?

~ V