Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Sooo did you watch the Olympics? I love watching the athletes from all over the world that are brought together under the umbrella of competing in their sport but end up forging a bond with others from all over the globe in moments of unity and togetherness.

What I don't enjoy is the promotion of self, which is generally pushed by the corporate sponsors. The most blatant, offensive ad I've seen in our part of the world is an ad promoting the latest iPhone. Their ad doesn't have anything to do with the performance of the phone as a communication tool or the functionality of the phone capabilities. It doesn't even mention the worthless "appeal" of the sleek design or cool looks. The entire ad, while slick in sales technique, is aimed at hitting our modern day culture right where they live, their own self absorption. The ad is all about "me", flaunting "me", telling the whole world that it's all about "me". Never mind you, I'm the most important. And we wonder why employers have to bribe the younger generations with free gas cards if they show up for work more than 3 days in a row, or we have a culture of people screaming and yelling at each other because their "rights" are violated. We wonder why we have division, derision and degradation. When we are so focused on ourselves the only thing we can do is spotlight every little thing or person that threatens our ego or little kingdom because in the end it's the only thing we can see worth defending and we're so threatened that we totally ignore the other. Annd God is also one of those "others".

So carry on, snap those selfies, get them out there on social media, sell your story to the world about how awesome you are and your life is. I'm not sure how much more counter Gospel we can get.

Here's our Culture on Display

Monday, February 5, 2018

When the Lion Roars

So on my way into the office today I decided to call my daughter to see how she's feeling as she's a week past her final chemo treatment. She said she was feeling pretty good but was freezing to death because her heat was not working and it was a scorching 7 degrees outside this morning. So I quickly re-routed to her house to see about getting the situation under control. After taking care of the issue I was talking with her briefly and she directed my attention to a couple of signs she had just bought. They're big and the one hanging on the wall said "Choose Joy". The other was leaning against the wall on the floor and reminded me of a sign hanging above the highway that announced upcoming towns and their distance as it was almost as big. It was a white sign with black letters that started out asking that God take her beyond her trust in Him. I gasped and stopped reading.

I really believe in blissful ignorance and often times I've found myself looking at my situation and evaluating what God was thinking by allowing me to meander into such a mine field. There's been many times He's reminded me of an innocent, well intentioned prayer that was really meant to say something more like "hey God, you're good and I trust you, you got this" when in reality I was saying "is that all you've got!!!?? I don't want to be some lukewarm puke, I'm as bad as they come and I can handle anything the world can throw at me because I trust you to the moon and back!!!" What I was blissfully ignorant of was that I had just stepped through the gate to strap myself into that wonderful ride called the Demon Drop and was expeditiously plunged into the depths of hell. In the meantime God's whispering gleefully in my ear "do you still trust me? is this the next step you had in mind? .... but you're going to grow so much through this and our relationship is going to be so much stronger".

Without saying much I looked at my daughter and she said "but you've gotta read the whole thing, you didn't read it all, it's good, it's about God". Ok. As I continued to read it, or more like skimmed as I didn't want to see what this prayer was asking for, it ended with something to do with being taken out into the deep where her feet couldn't touch bottom and all she could do is cling to Jesus. I looked at her and said "do you know what this is saying?! Haven't you had your fill?" She said "I'm already there" I agreed but added that things could go so much further. I warned her about being careful with what she asked for. She grinned and snickered devilishly as if to say "I want it all".

Sometimes we try to put God into this little feel good magic cube that's going to make our lives better, help us to deal with adversities, and be nice people. We dumb God down, try to strip Him of His power, make him a bobble head on the dashboard or a lucky rabbits foot. Not so. God is good but He's not tame. He wants what's best for us and He will do what needs to be done to make us our very best, purified, saintly selves. That very rarely involves ice cream and Hallmark movies. God's not whimpy, God's not nice, God's not impotent, God's Not Dead by the Newsboys.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


There's a line of thought, and I agree, that everything has already happened. We just experience it in a linear fashion because that's all we're capable of. I've heard it said from a Native American perspective of spirituality that deja vue is really just our subconsciousness poking though to the eternal now which is happening and has happened all at the same time which makes it feel familiar to us.

When I was in high school I had no idea about life, if you'd asked me then I probably would've given you an earful of some macho, egotistical hash, but I knew then and can admit it now that I had no idea where I was going or how I was going to get there. The future didn't even exist for me beyond high school. I had some aspirations to move out west, become a park ranger and play outdoors for the rest of my life until I could retire to the top of some mountain somewhere by myself so I wouldn't have to miss anything or let go of anyone. It wasn't until I met my wife, which in itself was quite literally like some cosmic alignment of the stars and planets that we even connected beyond our first meeting, (which in itself was quite literally like watching a new born giraffe trying to walk) that anything remotely resembling a future for me poked its head into my world. She brought a voice of reason, a goal, and set the bar high and I saw it was worth striving for. Aside from that I just bounced along from one good time to another with an attitude, a 80's haircut, and a tricked out Mustang muscle car that became my signature and my economic nemesis.

I never expected life to be easy, I also never expected to do some of the stupid things I do, or to be faced with some of the difficulties I face. At the same time I never anticipated I would have the opportunities I have to see the amazing ways God works in the world or the amazing people He works with. The funny thing is I never pursued these opportunities or encounters I just fell into them. Much like how my wife's and my lives became intertwined it seems that sometimes God gently nudges me repeatedly onto the track I need to be on or just flat out picks me up by gruff of the neck and plops me where I need to be.

I can honestly say the life I live is not my own, it is purely gift. The part I can claim as my own are my mistakes, my arrogance, my guilt and my regrets. The gift is that today is a new day, I have an intellect and a will and I have the capability to change my life ... for the better or the worse. Self discipline is the ability to refrain from making the choice that will bring me immediate gratification but will alter my future for the worse. Wisdom is the ability to see the consequences of my choice that will resonate down through my future. Salvation is the Savior that re-writes those consequences to bring good about in all circumstances. Grace is  the strength and love received by God to learn from my choices to make better choices for my future.  With God the possibilities are endless, hindsight is 20/20 but we can only use it to impact the future, we can never use it write that the letter that begins with Dear Younger Me by Mercy Me.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

When Things Happen to People

Its 12:45 am and I’m sitting on the couch doing this. I’m just getting over a week long battle against a virus that felt like I swallowed a porcupine tail first. My schedule and my system are all messed up so I can’t sleep but my wife needs to. Tomorrow is the first day of her new dream job, the one she said she wanted 2 ½ years ago when we found out she was losing her job. So ya, 2018 is off to a great start. As a matter of fact I’ve received more good news so far this year than I have in quite literally 10 years. My daughter had a checkup a week ago and the doctor said they can’t find 3 of the tumors and the other 4 where half their original size. She told me earlier today that now she can’t feel any of them. She also won’t need a double mastectomy because the chance of the cancer crossing to the other side are less than 5%. Then there’s a series of small but costly things with the house that were taken care of free.

So what gives? Why is all this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? I question the good stuff not the bad stuff. My wife she asked these questions when we found out my daughter had cancer. I don’t question the bad stuff, I know. Sometimes things happen to people, sometimes good, sometimes bad. The bookkeeper at work made a comment last week about my wife getting her job. She said see all the worry for nothing. I said, not for nothing, we were blessed it worked out so quickly and positively. I see people on a daily basis at the food pantry that it never worked out for. So why me? I just saw a blog today of a woman who lost her daughter when she was in her teens, a friends son committed suicide last week, I spoke with a man last week who couldn’t find a job for two years after suddenly being laid off and it took him 8 years to find one that came close to what he was making.

So now what? Do I spend the next 20 years hoping one of us doesn’t lose our job, or become ill with cancer, or experience a sudden death. Is this what life’s about? No we know it’s about more than money, and death is not the end of us, and our loved ones always with us. I do miss the old days when we were ignorant and just plowed through life without a care. I’m convinced God wants the very same for us. Scripture tells us not to be concerned with the things of this life. So what’s life about? It’s about family, love, others, mission and clinging to Him. God put us all here together, it’s about the journey as much as it’s about the destination. It’s about who we journey with and our loved ones, parents, siblings, grand parents, Phoebs, they’re always with us and remind us I Will Carry You Michael W Smith.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mission Focused

Well just thought I'd check in. It's a new year and God is doing His little God Boogie. Things are shifting again in my little corner of the world and the Untame Lion has grabbed my the nap of the neck again and we're moving on....

It's a wonderful, crazy thing to just be at His whim and every day is a new day. Things seem to be turning in a good direction but as Val Kilmer once said in some big western movie "there's many a slip twixt a lip and cup'. My daughter is veracious when it comes to understanding and utterly crushing her cancer and she's learning all the right and wrong things to do to prevent it and as is par for her generation she gleans utter joy showing me the err of my ways. I was discussing this with a new friend who is a retired Christian Reformed pastor who is also a prayer warrior and has been astounding at turning every neighborhood potluck into a prayer revival for my family. As I shared with him and my daughter, I fully understand and appreciate what she tells me but self preservation is just not my main priority. I've got a mission and I will accomplish that mission, no matter what, As I told my daughter, I won't spend my life tiptoeing through a mine field. I'm not going to be stupid but I will get to the goal, which is not spending an eternity on earth.

I've spent the last couple of months withdrawing from commitments that I've completed my part in and there are others I apparently am to revisit. It seems one is to pickup music again. This is coming out of an attitude of gratitude for my daughters Church and the many family friends who've jumped into the battle with us. I don't have much to give and even less to offer, but apparently music is my best way to give thanks and praise to those who've been so amazing, with God at the front of the list. So as we continue to fight the good fight and remain mission focused here's a little toe tapper that's going to be the first song I play when we get back on stage again. No matter what, never forget Salvation is Here by Lincoln Brewster.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Silent Night...

It's been a little silent here as during the seasons I usually post a little more about the spirit of the season and my own insights. Obviously I've been a little preoccupied. But that's not to say I'm not in the spirit of things. I really thought that with all the challenges in our family right now it'd be a real downer during Advent, Christmas and New Years season but weirdly enough not so. While this season does have a little different feel than the ghosts of Christmas Past, there's still the joy, hope and awe of the season. I just have to cut through some of the fear and uncertainty which are there but really not influential.

I went to confession a couple weeks ago and had some of the best advice I think I've ever had. When I confessed my wrongdoings, which really have been magnified by the stress of my life situation, the priest said "offer it up". He explained this really doesn't mean "suck it up" but "admit that it really stinks, you don't like it and and offer it to God, give it to Him, stop pretending everything's ok, it's not." So that's what I've done and it really works and I know this because those things I was doing... biting people's heads off, being cranky, gossiping... they really have diminished.

There's so much going on right now that it really can distract me from the Season but it doesn't squelch or ruin anything. It's just our time in the sun. I've had my long silent nights and at a low a couple weeks ago, a couple days before going to confession,  when my wife's job finally actually ended, I laid in bed thinking about things. I started wondering about the difference between surrendering and just giving up. Giving up sounded much more appealing as it meant to just quit trying and just walk away from it all, cash in, seek divine union with the couch, bury myself in distractions and neglect everything. Not really my style but I thought about it. Some of the other silent nights revolved around possible outcomes for my daughters situation, future concerns, the well being of the family, and on and on.

Then I remembered... not all silent nights are full of things that go bump in the dark. Some are blown open by cosmic events, bright stars, mind blowing beings that blind and deafen you with white light and choruses of praise, the screams of a woman giving birth and the shrieks of a gooey, messy baby that brought kings hundreds of miles to their knees and rulers to the edge of insanity and murder at the mere thought of His presence, a baby that changed the world for ever more. From the Divine, to the human and back to the Divine... this is the Christmas story, always present, omnipotent beyond our comprehension and dwelling among us whether we choose to see Him or not, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, the Lion of Judah.... always good, never ever tame!

May you be blessed this Holiday Season because of the that one Silent Night by the Pentatonix.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Telling the Story

A lot of times I get stuck in the past when it comes to relating to Jesus. He's stuck in the context and culture of His time on earth. To make it personal and relevant to now I have to look at what makes Him present to me now. How do I re-tell or at least view the Gospel at the street level, if I was in the scene. What draws me to Him now?

To do this I have to look at who I am and bring Him into the context of my life now. For example, yesterday I was on another search and rescue mission. I was caught by media in a few pictures and videos after turning down an interview and referring them to one of my soldiers who is also our recruiter. As I fought my way through the swamps with my team trying to not stray off from our navigator I was praying for help. Soooo who do you think I prayed to? Who's the patron saint of lost things?  I found myself repeating the prayer "Tony, Tony look around, someones lost and must be found". We haven't found him yet but I think St. Anthony is guiding the search and he'll be found today. So how do I bring Jesus into this context? Well we have Jesus in the Gospels talking about how He came for the lost sheep of Israel. We have the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, we hear Him speak of how Heaven rejoices of the return of one repentant sinner and on and on. So let's wake up and see that Jesus entire life is one big SAR mission, He's all about Search and Rescue.

So if I bring Him into the context or my life what does that look like? Well I see him in an ACU uniform, He's my battalion commander, we're pouring over topo maps, we've got our compass and protractors out. We're talking about Lost Person Behavior, identifying search areas, breaking them down into search grids doing a group consensus on the probability of location, assigning search teams and heading out into the bars, the back alleys, going door to door, hitting the drug houses, the shopping malls, etc. Guess this is an urban search not a wilderness search.He looks pretty good clean cut, He's demanding but not bullying, somehow He's got it down pat helping His soldiers develop into the best person they can be. I'm no longer at the top of the food chain when it comes to the Ruck Challenge, where I fell short of the 100 push-ups by 3 He beat me by 5. Sit-ups He got me by 15. Let's not talk about the run.

So this is Jesus in the context of my life. What does He look like if I insert myself into His time? I mean really, not the blue eyed, brown hair, sculptured beard, flowing robed Fabio version.
We have to tell the story on our terms, meet somewhere in the middle, He in my time and I in His. We just went to the movie The Star and I have to say I was a little nervous as you never know what spin the entertainment industry is going to put on a story, but they nailed it. Presented it as it was but from the street level on our terms. They told His story in our time.

Take some time to re-tell the Gospel in your own words. You might find it enlightening, educational and fresh. He probably won't be out ground pounding with you in the swamps on a SAR but you might be surprised.

Here's a little Seasonal inspiration. Enjoy! Christmas According to Kids