The Trophy

We sat together watching the olympics.  Woman’s gymnastics.  They are incredible.

We were all in awe; watching and flinching and stretching in the hopes that our stretching would give the US a little more balance (Doing the Raisman dance).

As they were giving us some well deserved gold medals, our 7 year old gymnast asked the question, “Mommy, what are you going to do with all my trophies?”

Now, she doesn’t have any trophies, not yet, but I love this attitude.  As her dad, I immediately pictured the room that we will have to add on to our house just to accommodate the flow of honors.  One room for each child.  Actually, they will probably each need a house just to keep their trophies.  Maybe more.  

I cannot wait to see how this attitude changes her next gymnastics class.

The apostle Paul had this attitude as well.  1 Corinthians 9:26 – “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.”  He was also talking about a sports competition that began in Greece (look at verse 25).

What would happen if I had this attitude?

Everything I do, I expect to do it until I am the best I can possibly be.  Until I attain THE TROPHY.

Would that change the way I preached on Sundays?  Would it change the way I exercised?  Would it change the way I raised my kids?  Loved my wife?  Treated my friends?

Paul also asked us to consider our trophy…  Colossians 3:23-24. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Jesus, You alone are my Trophy.  Please build a house inside of me where You will be shown off and magnified.  Let me work hard and with intention today until I attain that inheritance which You have already purchased with Your blood sweat and tears for me.  Amen.

The Size of the Dog

My wife and I woke up to this scene today:

I watched as the bear moseyed around the neighborhood, making sure everyone closed their trash containers, and telling the kids that only they could prevent forest fires.

Along comes Barky McBarksalot to confront the 600 pounds of omnivore.  Normally bears run from aggravators, but this bear looked more like he wanted to tell the dog, “Shhh, you don’t need to bark.”  (As if he too, was woken up by barking this morning). As I watched, I was sure the bear and dog were going to “play dentist” at any moment.  (“Let me check those teeth for you…”), but… 

The bear went on his way and found no open containers (by the way, GREAT JOB neighborhood!) and the dog had to go back home and change his Facebook status to, “not as strong as I thought; in Telluride”.

I feel that way when I fight God.  

I fight God because I want my way and not God’s way.
I fight God because I am stubborn.
I fight God because I love to hear my voice. (I would rather hear that aggrivating barking than silence.)

And I know… I know that if He wanted to, God could just wipe me out. If I were God, I would want to wipe me out.

God looks at me instead and says, “Shhhh. Tree, you don’t need to bark.”

There is one big difference between me and God, and a bear and a dog: When the dog looses the fight, he cowers in the corner.  When I lose the fight, I walk / limp next to God.

If you are fighting with God today, I hope you loose quickly. Then, look beside you, you are invited to walk next to the King – me too.  That is what it means to be in the family of God.

Genesis 32

Lives Matter

Black lives matter.
Happy lives matter.
Athletic lives matter.
Criminal lives matter.
Unborn lives matter.
Dirty lives matter.
Angry lives matter.
Enemy lives matter.
Friendly lives matter.
Racist lives matter.
Extreme lives matter.
Boring lives matter.
Addict lives matter.
Actor lives matter.
Politician lives matter.
Muslim lives matter.
Cute lives matter.

Add two words to any of these slogans and we change the world.

We get into trouble when we add these two words: “more than”.

As in, “Rich lives matter MORE THAN poor lives matter,”
or, “Voting lives matter MORE THAN silent lives matter,”
or the ever popular, “Our lives matter MORE THAN your lives matter.”

Add these two words and we are adding prejudice and hate.

However, if we try these two words: “To God”…

“Broken lives matter TO GOD,”
or, “Lonley lives matter TO GOD,”
and of course, “Our lives matter TO GOD.”

Add these two words and we add humbleness and purpose.

God breaks paritiality and prejudice with this phrase from the book of Job…

“God shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of His hand.” – Job 34:19

There is a reason that lives matter to God.  He created them.  Lives were God’s idea in the first place.

Therefore, my response to the people that are around me is actually my response to God.
How do I feel about you? – the question is really how do I feel about God’s work?   (That, by the way, is the reason that I like you so much.)

What would happen in my life if I honored all lives as the work of God’s hand?

Which two words will you choose?

Choose Your Weapon

I was working the late shift at Blimpies (Say simply Blimpie for fresh sliced subs.). 

When I took the trash out, I noticed some movement near my Jeep.  A couple of guys were looking for a free radio.  I went back in the door and grabbed the first thing I saw, a large bread knife, and walked back out to the parking lot.

Now, I don’t know what would have happened if they would have seen the knife.  If they had no weapon, I am pretty sure the long blade would have provoked the two of them to break my skull.  

If they did have a weapon, I’m sure it would have trumped a bread knife.  I wasn’t really thinking about all of that at the time, just how, maybe, I should put locking doors on my Jeep.

I confronted the two hooligans and never pulled out the knife.  When I walked up behind the two, they did not notice me, so I said, “Whatcha looking for?”  They were in their car before I was finished with the sentence.

Presence is a powerful enough weapon.

We all choose our weapons.  What we use to fight for breathing room in this place.  What weapon will you fight with today? Will it be something as important as your presence or as insignificant as a bread knife?

When you see someone hurting in your neighbor’s house, what weapon will you choose to fight the sadness?
When disease breaks your sister, what weapon will you choose to restore hope?
When there are no answers and all questions, what weapon will you choose in the silence?

There are those that would say God’s weapon of choice is love, but I don’t think so.  I think it is presence.  God changed the world by being here.  Jesus was called Emmanuel = God with us.  God uses His presence to prove His love.  

You can prove your love today as well.  You can prove God’s love.

27 years ago God told me that He loves me.  He used this verse:  Matthew 28:20 – “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  That verse has made me the person I am today.

God’s presence – with it, He battles for my heart.  He fights for you today as well.

Many Shovels

We have this tree in our yard.  No.  A stick.  We planted it last year with high hopes, and in a week we had 6 inches of snow. I planted it at the wrong time.  That happens.  Sometimes things do not grow.  My name is tree, but I have no green thumb.

It is time to correct the problem; to replace the dead with the living.

First, I need to dig up the old.  I call for a shovel.

“There are many shovels at your place.”
“It doesn’t matter which shovel you choose, just as long as you have a shovel.”
“All shovels are equal and they will all get you the same results.”
“I don’t believe in shovels. I used to, but I have been hurt by too many people that use shovels incorrectly.”
“You don’t need a shovel. Just use your hands.”
“The idea of a shovel is archaic and hasn’t been applicable for hundreds of years.”

I have this tree in my life. No, a stick: Dead and dry and without fruit. There is nothing I can do to make that thing grow.

It is time to correct the problem; to replace the dead with the living.

First, I need to dig up the old. I call for the cross. (Galatians 2:20)

And there is only One able to do the job. There are not many; not two – only One. Only one that died already and cleared the way for dead trees to become living trees forever. His name is Jesus. He buried my old self after hanging tree on a cross. I am a new tree.

Now I know that some do not believe in Jesus. And I know that some think there are many solutions to the problem of a dead tree, so let me invite you: Tried everything? Still not satisfied? Me too – until Jesus. That is why I smile in this world. I was dead. Now alive.

Instead of settling for this:

Insist on this:

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I saw her at the grocery store.  A beautiful five-year-old girl pushing one of the child-sized carts.  The cart was full – full for Victoria – it had a gallon of milk in it.  That was enough.  Her dad was there to help her, but he didn’t get to do anything.  Victoria was doing all the work.

I had to smile at her.  She and her parents are dear to my heart.  I love watching her grow up and become more and more independent.  I love the course that she is on.

As she was getting ready to check out, I thought about the way we pass on information to our children.

Her dad did not teach her with words: “First, put both of your hands right here.  Walk forward and the cart will move forward.  Apply more pressure with your right hand to turn left…”  He didn’t have to say any of that.  We do not tell our kids how to live, we show them.

What information are you passing along to your children by example?

Deuteronomy 6:7 “You shall teach these things diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

You might tell your kids about God today.

You will definitely show your kids about God today.

What will you teach them?  Here is how you find out:  Wait until they start pushing the weight of the world around – then you will know exactly what you taught them.

Teach well.  The world needs more Victorias.

“Jesus, please let me show my kids how much You love them.  Your love is worth all my words and much more!”

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We have a water cooler at the back of the church. It also has a hot water feature with a child safety spigot.

The other day I was watching Daniel the 2-year-old walk around back there.  Every time he would go near the water cooler, I would get a little closer to him.  If he reached his hand out toward the cold water spigot, I would get closer to him.  He would back away – I would back away.  He would get close, I would get close.  The dance!
He reached toward the hot water spigot and I was right there.  BOOM!  I am ready to rescue.

He fussed. Threw a fit. He doesn’t have the vocabulary yet, but what he was saying was, “Dude! Back away! I know what I am doing and that red, hot water thing looks much more awesome than the cold. You have got to let me do some things that I want and stop pushing your conservative protective agenda on my life!” (something like that).

I am watching my kids get more independent.  This is both wonderful and frightening at the same time. I want them to grow up, but I also want them to avoid scourging hot water.  So I guard them a little closer when they are near the danger.

Something you should know about Jesus:

The closer I get to pain, the closer Jesus gets to me.  This is what rescuers do.

I do not always know that I am closer to pain.  In fact, often, I cry out for independence rather than protection.  “Make me a better…”  “Give me what I need to choose…”  “Let me go…”  When what I should probably pray is, “Thanks for stopping me, God.  I need You.”  (Try that simple prayer sometime.  It will change your life.)

Yet, regardless of how I pray or react, Jesus still walks closer in times of hurt.  Whether I throw a fit or not, He still abides.  I am eternally grateful for that.

I know some of you are closer to the flame than you should be.  Maybe you want to feel the fire.  Maybe you are bored with, or angry at the safe places.  Maybe you don’t know the danger is right in front of you.  You are getting closer to the hurt.  I am sorry, I know how confusing that is.  But be assured…  The Rescuer is here.  He watches all the time, but sometimes He dances.  Don’t try to break His hold, try to learn from His embrace.

We need a Rescuer.

Jesus, please rescue us.

Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

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Separate or Set

Intramural basketball game.  Jammed finger.  Ouch.

I played basketball a lot so I was used to having jammed fingers.  There is a painful but effective way of taking care of the ailment:  unjam the finger.

Grab the end of the finger.  Deep breath.  Prepare for pain.  Pull…  Hard….  I never had the stomach for pulling my fingers out of a jam, so I had to repeat the process a few times with each finger.

And that’s what I did.  Pulled and pulled and pulled.  I’m going to get that finger unjammed!

After a week of inneffective unjamming, I was in the doctor’s office.

Diagnosis:  “Tree, your finger is broken.  Let’s surgery that thing and put a couple of pins in it so you don’t have arthritis later in life.”  (I’ll tell you that story later.)

So yes, I had spent a week breaking my finger a little more with every pull.

You separate a jammed finger.  You set a broken finger.

This one goes out to all of those who, like me, have tried to separate the things that should be set.

Maybe you feel betrayed, maybe you have been hurt, maybe you just thought you would be better by yourself.  You separated. You disengaged. You ran from. You gave up.

I don’t blame you, but I know how much it hurts when you try to treat a jam and end up breaking.

Take it from the guy that had to drive across the country while wearing a cast: Instead of ripping your heart away, put your heart next to the One that will never move. His name is Jesus and the Bible says that He does not falter (Isaiah 42:4)

Set your heart on Him and let healing begin.

Job 11:13-15 “Still, if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, if you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, you’ll be able to face the world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless.”

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The Kindness of Strangers

We were tired.  Disney.  Great lines to wait in.  Delicious fast food.  Pushing a stroller against the stream.

My kids loved it.  

When it was time for the two princesses in the family to get their Splash Mountain on, the boys and I headed out of the park for a well deserved play date with a Lightning McQueen bed.

We were standing on the bus.  I was holding 1 diaper bag, 1 camera case, 300 pounds of rocks and bowling balls, and a two year old kangaroo that “needed” to destroy my glasses (Daniel).  This left Joshua to fend for himself.

He was standing and talking in the aisle.  Then he was sitting down in the aisle next to a cute 10 year old girl.  (That’s my boy!!). So I turned my attention to the kangaroo.

“Would you like me to catch him?”  The lady sitting in a seat asked me as she pointed to Joshua’s head bobbing up and down in a showdown with exhaustion.

I nudged him.  No response.  Called his name.  More bobbing.  Gave him a thermos of grocery store coffee…  Nothing was getting through to this kid.

I was helpless.  (A father cannot say that without ripping out his own heart.)

Then, I was rescued.

The 10 year old put her arms around him and let him lean on her shoulders.  The ladies in the seats held their hands as a pillow for his head.  The guy in charge of the wheelchair ramp offered a spare wheelchair if we wanted to cart Joshua into the hotel.  I didn’t ask for any of this, I didn’t earn it, but these strangers offered it all.

Life rushed back into me as I stood speechless and grateful for the kindness of strangers.

In the end, Joshua woke up as we arrived at the hotel.  

Maybe you have felt it too.  The weight of need.  The hunger for help.  Nowhere to turn.  Emotionally bankrupt.  Exhaustion is winning the fight.  You need a bus full of heroes.


What these strangers did for my son is what the Son of God did for my soul.  I was so tired, so broken, so in need.  But Jesus was on the bus.  Hear His invitation in Matthew 11:28 “Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I don’t think you deserve it.  I know I don’t.  We cannot earn it, and you might not even ask for it, but…  It might be time for you to rest in His arms today.

Join me on the bus full of the rescued today.  Ask me how.

Do You Know How Fast You Were Going?

“Son, do you know how fast you were going?”

My 64 Chevy truck.  It was painted a few different colors – the most notable was a section of canary yellow near the front.  The engine was simple and even worked pretty often.  I was pretty sure her top speed was somewhere in the 55-miles-per-hour zone.

My answer:  “No officer, I don’t know.  How fast?”

I was about a half mile away from the entrance to church.  I was going there for Wednesday night youth group.  I was late.  There is a hill, a steep one, on that road and I had just gone down and was getting ready to turn when I saw the red and blues.

“You don’t know how fast you were going?”  His sarcasm and doubt combination punched me in the gut.  He thought I was trying to get out of a ticket by playing the dumb kid card.  

The truck had a few unique characteristics:  The stereo system was mostly home stereo speakers I had rednecked together.  The carborater was mad at the world because of its own simplicity.  The engine would stall when warm or when the vehicle was stopped.  The dash board gauges wanted to work.  The speedometer read about 5 to 10 miles under what I was actually traveling (or so I thought).

I threw out a random guess to avoid the appearance of complete stupidity.  It didn’t work.  “60?”  “You were going 80 miles per hour in a 55.”

In the end, he didn’t give me a ticket.  Maybe because I was going to church, maybe because the truck had stalled out and I couldn’t get it to start (he actually gave me a ride to the church).

Or maybe it was because when he said, “80 miles per hour” I started smiling.  Big smile.  I told him that I was surprised my little truck would go that fast.  I was amazed.  “Awesome!” (Probably not the correct response)

After church that night I walked back up to the truck, started it up, and drove home with a new amount of appreciation for life and 64 Chevys.  My truck rocks!  80 miles per hour.

Sometimes we are surprised at what is under the hood of our souls. 

“Son, do you know how much you are loved?”

What if I were to tell you that your spiritual speedometer does not even begin to register how much God loves you?  

I know the paint job on your spirit is patchwork.  I know the senses don’t all work all the time.  I know the heart overheats when you least expect it and sometimes you just stall out, that’s if you can get started at all.  

You don’t realize it sometimes.  I don’t realize it sometimes.  We do a poor job of monitoring how much God loves us.

If I could do one thing for this world, I would pull you over on the side of the road and tell you that you are loved more than you think you are.  Loved more than you can imagine.

I get the feeling this is a truth that most people do not believe.

But when you hear it…  When you see it…  You will get back in the car with a new sense of awesome!

God loves you more.  I pray today is the day you believe that.