Thursday, December 4, 2008

Memo from Santa to Nebraska

I will no longer be able to serve the Cornhusker state on Christmas. I do, however, have a replacement for you: my third cousin twice removed, Herbie Claus.

His side of the family lives not at the North Pole, but in North Platte. In order for you to get to know him better, here are a few differences between us.

Herbie drives an old, red Chevy truck with rusty wheel wells (rather than a shiny sleigh with jingle bells). I made the mistake of loaning Herbie one of my reindeer – its head now hangs above his fireplace. Eight flying beef cows pull Herbie’s truck on Christmas Eve.

Many people, including me, prefer classic Christmas movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but Herbie’s favorite holiday films are the “Game of the Century” and any Cornhusker Orange Bowl win.

Instead of cookies and milk from a plastic jug, Herbie asks that you leave him a hot Runza and milk in a glass bottle. I’ve tried the Runza and agree it warms me up more than cookies.

Like me, when he comes to your house, he’ll be wearing a red and white suit, but don’t be alarmed by the addition of his striped bib overalls – required attire for the truest Nebraskans.

Instead of hearing “On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen,” you’ll hear “On Rodgers, on Rozier, on Crouch and Frazier.” And finally, you may be used to me exclaiming, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,” but Herbie Clause will be sure to say, “Merry Christmas to all and to Pelini a championship.”

Merry Christmas, Nebraska.

Your friend,
Santa Claus

Author's Note: To show the love of this Texan for Nebraska I wrote this to share with my congregation last Christmas. Many thanks to Chris Amundson of Nebraska Life Magazine for his editorial work & permission to use this copyrighted version here. "Memo from Santa to Nebraska" was published in the November/December 2008 issue on page 27. Merry Christmas indeed, Nebraska!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Drop Zone

We call it the drop zone.

My boy, Seth, & his carpool pal, Landon, are undoubtedly, without reservation the absolute fastest kids at exiting a car that Zeman Elementary has ever known. They're like paratroopers bailing out the door each morning.

We've got the routine too. En route I check them off. Weather report. Check. Jacket zipped. Check. Hats & mittens. Check. Backpack. Check. Lunchbag. Check.

Their need for speed is not my doing however. Turning into the parking lot each morning I've got to hold them back. "Don't unbuckle yet." The troopers are restless. "One more car." They're leaning to the door. "Wait." Hands on buckles. "We're almost there." We roll into the drop zone & I give the word, "Okay, go!"

Quicker than a Dad can say "Have a nice day!" they've bailed out & are running to class.

The drop zone.

This morning watching Seth run, yes run to class because he wants a good spot in line, a wind swept over me faster than the breeze in a paratroopers face. He's gone. His focus. His mind. They're not on me. I said, "I love you, Buddy," but did he even hear me? He's doing life without me. He doesn't need me right now. He's growing up. Look at him go.

I choked up, but I was already pulling out lest some other Dad berate the silver Saturn driver for being slow.

Just as quickly as the first wind of emotion came another. When he did need me. Yesterday. No reason. No prior plan. Seth says, "Dad, let's play Monopoly." We played for hours. He's shrewd. It was fun, simple, time together. What a joy!

My job, as a Daddy, is to spend as much time with him as I can. It also my job, once I have spent time with him, to free him to run into life on his own.

A wise son brings joy to his father. Proverbs 15:20

Heavenly Father, please teach me wisdom that I might bring you joy. And, Father, please teach my children wisdom too that they may bring joy to You, me & all. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Prayer

Patrick Morely offers the following prayer for our utterance.

Our dearest Father, we pause to humble ourselves and give you praise, glory, honor, and especially thanks. We acknowledge that you have given us one blessing after another. Even our troubles are the grace of God that keeps bringing us back to Jesus. We repent of all our sins. We turn to you, who alone can bind our wounds and heal our land. Thank you for our relationship with you, our families, our work, our health, our finances, and our service to others. Accept our deepest gratitude, O God. In Christ’s name. Amen.

And amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

African Jacob

Below are the thoughts of a missionary friend, Travis Jones. Travis & his wife, Charity, have served eight years in Tanzania. They will be returning to a new ministry in the States with their infant son, Zethan, next month.

Listen to Travis' heart. Consider what God is saying to your heart.

I feel, like Jacob, that I have wrestled with the Living God. I feel small. I feel loved. I pray that I am worthy of the call. His grace and love have been poured over me like never-ending, crashing waves. And in the middle of all of this love and grace, I have continued to sin and rebel and repent. The sovereign creator God has loved me to the utmost. It is this love that compels me to relentlessly pursue Him. We will finish the race.
Africa has taught me many things. But one of the greatest lessons I have learned is to have no sympathy for the person who believes that God is hard or conversely takes great delight in our comfort. God is more tender, more generous, more loving than we can even begin to fathom. I did not pursue God; He pursued me. I did not love Him first; He loved me first. And I have seen both men and women in the deepest grasp of poverty and pain come to the Cross and bend the knee. I have seen both men and women give up family, friends and all they have in order to follow Jesus. I have seen families try to kill and burn family members who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. No our God is neither hard nor overly concerned with our comfort. And anyone who would attempt to persuade you otherwise is in error.

Earth's crammed with heaven;
And every common bush aflame with God.
But only those who see take off their shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries!
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Poor Ostriches

Change is the new national buzzword. Some want change they can believe in while others may not believe the changes that have taken place. Churchfolk sometimes treat change within the church like it’s the four-letter-word that they don’t want the other churchfolk to know they holler when they smash a thumb. As a provoker of change toward Christ I’d grown fond of saying, “Change is not a four-letter-word,” until a dear Deacon Brother panned, “Preacher, it’s got six letters & that’s worse.”

Better or worse it’s part of life. It’s natural & expected. Who wants to be stuck in second grade forever or eat even the cheesiest of macaroni & cheeses for every meal? My second grader wouldn’t abide either of those options, would you?

Churches are poor ostriches however. We try to hide, deny, & avoid change while we should be expecting it as long as we’re still kicking. Lack of change equals death, right?

Challenging responses to change include: hand-wringing; past-preoccupation; denial; blaming; dividing; rationalizing; talking about others; checking out for self.

Christ-like responses to change include: anticipating change; prayer; Bible study; resisting sin; more prayer; talking to others; uniting; even more prayer; checking in to serve.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Godly Man

UPS came today. My monthly only a preacher would get so excited biblical commentary delivery. Ran to my office. Like a kid. Got scissors. Slit the packaging. Slid out the commentary. Shiny. Stiff.

Which one? They don't tell a guy what's coming. It's a sort of preacher surprise program. Not like the unexpected deacon with a long face and something on his mind surprise. This is a good surprise.

1 & 2 Timothy & Titus. The Pastoral Epistles. Written by Thomas D. Lea & Hayne P. Griffen, Jr. I held it. Tears welling. Throat lumping.

Dr. Lea. Tommy, as others but oh not me out of respect, call him is the father of one my best friends, Cliff. In his home. In his seminary classroom. Through Cliff. I learned so much more than a commentary might contain.

How to walk, really walk, with the Lord daily. Gentleness of steadfast strength. Scholarly discipline that could communicate with the simplest. Husband enamored & expressive. Daddy proud & forthright. Kind, easy humor. Captivating demeanor. Humility in authority. Grace of bearing. Perseverance through terrible trials. Dignity no matter the circumstance. Love so deep everyone knew it was supernatural. Bright outlook of unwavering faith in our loving God. Legacy solid.

Dr. Lea is with the Lord now.

Dr. Lea is still teaching however.

Here I sit. Pastor in an office. His book before me. Throat still lumpy. Eyes still watery.

Dr. Thomas D. Lea. A godly man.

I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Good Hair

Few weeks ago... Mama out for hours. Mary Elizabeth wanted a pony tail. Big one. In the back. Yet proper preschool hairstyling is not in the Daddy Manual & Daddy seems to have missed Mama's ponytail lessons. What's a Daddy to do?

Grab ponytail holder. Pull back hair. Gently. Make a loop. Gently. And another. Gently. And a third. But can't. Quite. Get. Long. Auburn. Hair. Through. Third. Time.

Big brown eyes look knowingly at Daddy. He's struggling. She's sympathetic. What's a Daddy to do?

Daddy idea. Long hair. Not ponytailed. But pulled up. Don't know what to call it, but this Daddy gambles and as prestigiously as proud Papa possible pronounces, "Mary Elizabeth, you look like Sarah Palin."

Moment of truth. Big brown eyes look into the mirror. Head turns left. Looking. Then right. Satisfied smile spreads across preschool cheeks. Relieved smile spreads across Daddy cheeks.

Forward to last night... Prayer time. Daddy mentions elections. Tongue tip response of Mary Elizabeth, "I wanna vote for the Girl President with good hair. The one who Daddy made my hair look like."

If only good hair or a good personality made a good person or a good politician. A good politician is an oxymoron good for who? A good person is a reality good through Jesus. Heaven help our nation on this day of decision.

Monday, October 27, 2008

God can

Asked my church family to define worship yesterday. What does it mean to them?

If they wanted to draw a picture, what does it look like?

How do I show God's worth? His worthiness?

Then, later, I got my own push from the Spirit.

Worship is when I say, "I can't. God can."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gear & Guts

Last night: 43 degrees; dark; windy; rainy. Have a treadmill in my basement.

I'm no hamster. Love the outdoors.

Tell me the weather. I'll tell you the gear. Head to foot. Technical fiber. Moisture wicking. 360 reflective. Temperature-tuned. Flat-seemed. Blister-free. Wind-stopper. Water-resistant.

But. Any day. Any weather. Any extreme. Do I have the guts? Guts to get up, get out, go run.

I'm no chicken. Love to test myself.

Gear & guts is all you need for all-weather running.

Life's like that.

Tell me the situation. I'll tell you a direction. Been schooled. Done conferences. Read books. Studied articles. Had mentors. Know strategies. Got techniques.

But. Any day. Any challenge. Any extreme. Do I have the courage? Courage to stand up, speak truth, & live.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong & courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rule #.92

Writing a list of rules for running, I'd have one to proceed #1. Rule #.92.

Warm & windy October Saturday welcomed the first ever Market to Market Relay from Omaha to Lincoln. 86 miles, 24 exhange points, 8 person team. Before dawn's early light through the sun's setting we ran 3 stages each. My team finished 52nd. 11 hours 35 minutes. Could have been 11:27.

My second run of the day: Stage 14. 4.55 miles west & south.
Baton in hand. Mind set. Run hard. Run fast. Crunching gravel. Rustling trees. Round the bend. Competitors in sight. 4 miles more. All uphill. Half into the wind. How many can I pick off? Turning north. 3 passed. Turning west. State highway. Mile-long hill. How many more can I pass? They fade. I thrive. Uphill. Running hard.

Where are the markers? Yellow flags. Wasn't this supposed to be all gravel? County road. Was there supposed to be a turn north? West & south.

Passed 10. Maybe 12. Turned south. Into the wind. Rolling fields. Corn & soy. Pass a few more. Big green combine passes me. Maybe I'm not so fast. Heart rate's been redline for 20 minutes. Hard run. Fast for me.

"Shouldn't the church, the exchange zone, be over the next hill?," ask a guy as I pass.

"No," he pants, "we took... a wrong... turn... after... the park... no turn... north... should be... coming out... right there." Klieser Road. In reading distance. Just ahead.

Mind's racing. Faster than heart. Yes, we should. No north on the map. I was just following the runners ahead of me! Someone took a wrong turn. How much time lost? How much farther to run? Can I keep this pace? Crying inside. I was just following the runners ahead of me...

Rule #.92. Named for the extra distance. Bigger hill climbed. Longer windbound. Hard earned.

Rule #.92 - Follow the directions. Not the crowd.

Come, follow me, Jesus said - Matthew 4:19.

Teach me Your way, O Lord - Psalm 86:11.

Running rule. Life rule.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Miss

Macaroni & cheese day at the elementary. Excitement. Hot lunch sales were up. One of those was me. Got the special invite from Seth the exceptional second grader.

Showed up early. Anxious. Can't miss this taste of glory. Looked down at my laces. Principal said I was a good Daddy to come today. Gave some fives to children parading by. And then, Seth. Ran to me ahead of his teacher. Full body hug & pulled me toward lunch.

Line didn't move at second grader speed. Anticipation. Utensils, straw, napkin, milk, tray. And, finally, shaped plate filling portions of noodley gooeyness. With green beans, of course. Fruit cup, yes. And, what? Past the slidey rail part. At the end. Almost out of the ubiquitous lunch lady's view. Hiding in the serving racks. Little cups. Cups of cookie dough. Chocolate chip cookie dough.

Sat down with five kids. Hungry. One lanky like his Dad. One red-headed like her Mom. One rounder than the rest. One smiling new over sized teeth. One just plain average. One thing in common. All ate the chocolate chip cookie dough FIRST.

Laughed. Not too loud. Talked. Not too much. Ate. As if Moms were watching. We were a good table. Then an aside. Seth spoke quietly. Just to me. Almost secret.

Daddy, they always have cookie dough with macaroni & cheese. Last time I missed it. At the end of the line. Hiding in those trays... Don't miss it.

Yes, my Son, don't miss the little things.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ach Nee

Afrikaans: pronounced, "ahk nee-uh." Choke out an "ach" furball. Then mutter, spit, holler or cry the "nee" depending on emphasis.

English: translated, "alas, no." A phrase foreign to our tongues even in our language. Alas, we rarely intone such interjections.

How well do we express our true feelings? How deeply do we truly feel? Our unhappiness goes unuttered. Our sorrow is shallow. Our pity is petty. Our concern is less than.

Ach nee, People. Be honest. Have courage. Be real. Risk. Love. Talk to one another & not about one another.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love... Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:2 & 32, NIV.

Now that you've cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it.
1 Peter 1:22, The Message.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Seen it in the newspaper. "The above photo was mislabeled in yesterday's edition. The correct... "

Accept it in life? "The previous action was inappropriate. The correct... "

He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. Proverbs 15:31&31

Correction, as biblical rebuke or reproof, is the exposure of a sin or a shortcoming.

It is a call to repentance & change as well.

Am I humble under correction?

Do I respond in repentance?

The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No Trouble

(Disclaimers: first, this is an outdoor only activity; second, is an athlete to carry a box of tissues?)

Had a college buddy with an old heather-gray t-shirt picturing a right index finger depressed right nostril football player. Not like Santa "laying his finger aside his nose" gently, but a nose hole pressed shut. One clamped down so the other can inflate a monstrous balloon of... snot. Yes, snot.

The shirt read, "Snot bubble. No trouble." Guy humor.

I'm an exceptionally nasaled fella. I know. Given the need a sufficient clamp & a stout blow makes the method work as advertised on my buddy's tee.

Snot bubble. No trouble. Press & blow.

So here I go... Another morning. Another run. Another nasal need. Another press & blow. A new revelation.

"If we confess our sins he is faithful & just & will forgive our sins & purify us from all unrighteousness," 1 John 1:9 states. An old truth.

Sin stumble. No trouble. Pray & ask.

Want To

Had my annual physical last week. My doctor is questioning. I'm answering. We get to my recent neck injury. Got it training for my first marathon. (Yes, I said "neck." It can happen. It just took a yeahoo like me to prove it. If you care, I'll tell you, but back to the story...)

"The human body just wasn't designed for that," he impassively states of marathoning & moves on to the next question. I restrain my urge to confront my dear doctor who I now worry may be a pessimistic heretic of the seemingly limitless capabilities of the human body. Shame.

His point I understand. It is not natural to run 26.2 miles. Many think it is not sane. Yet millions prove this wrong every year. We human-folk are astonishing. God designed us with amazing bodies capable of feats limited only by our incredible imaginations. It takes proper training. Lots of time. Self-discipline. Want to.

We human-folk can do. And me, I want to run. I love to run. I want to because I love to.

So I'm running this AM. Praying as I do. Sunrise soaked. Breeze cooled. The above comes to mind. The Lord speaks to my heart.

Aaron, is it natural for you to sin?

Sure, Lord. Hard not to. I was born with a sin nature. You know the drill.

What keeps you from sinning, Aaron?

I don't want to.

Why don't you want to? Duty? Obedience? Or something else?

Yes, Lord. You got me. I gotta confess. Sometimes it's sheer will power. Other times it's the duty. Externalized religion. I am a pastor. I'm supposed to have it together. But, Lord Jesus, would you continue to change that in me? Please. Would you, Lord Jesus, help me fall so much in love with you that I don't want to sin because... because I love you that much... because I don't won't to hurt you... because my relationship with you is of greater value than all else of life. Give me want to because I love you, Lord.

"Whoever has my commands & obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, & I too will love him & show myself to him." Jesus, John 14:21.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Forgive Me

Seth & Mary Elizabeth are like most siblings. Occasionally they let loose. SWACK! Even hit the other. Seth, being the boy, being 7, is often the aggressor. And Mary Elizabeth, being the girl, being 4, is often deeply offended. Bit-part drama princess. Bless her heart.

The pattern: SWACK; gasp; silence; one crying; other denying; one accusing; parent intervening; one wailing; other denying; etc.

Getting the kids ready for bed the other night. SWACK! Seth hits Mary Elizabeth.

Melanie: Seth, that was mean. You ask Mary to forgive you.

Seth: Mary will you forgive m... heh-heh-heh-heh. Laughing at what he's done as he dives into bed.

Parental time out. Whistle in my head. Self-conversation. What now? This forgiveness thing is being mocked. Agh. God, help me out here. Sorry is just, "I got busted. My heart's not changed," but we desire brokeness, humility, & repentance for our kids, God. Thats real forgiveness, right?

Wish I could report the wise words I spoke. How I conquered the parental conundrum, brought righteous fear to my son, instilled loving hope into my daughter, & looked like I have it all together for my wife in one stirring fatherial oration. Nope. Can't say that I did.

Can say forgive me with a laugh isn't right.

Can say I'm convicted.

"Father, forgive me. Forgive me for the times I've laughed at You. Break my heart over my sin. Make me humble. Allow me to love others as You love me. I'm not laughing now."

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. Psalm 130:1-4

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Blessing of Family

My family's down south. Visiting family & friends. They're having fun. Making memories. Melanie's masterfully managing three kids. John Mark's got a funny, new communicating-something-only-he-understands sound. Mary Elizabeth doesn't care to talk to me on the phone. Seth, thankfully, is keeping me informed beginning with his unique, "Hel-LO, Daddy."

I'm here in Lincoln. Lonely. Missing my wife. I want to hold her long. Missing my kids. I want to play the Wrestle-Daddy-Game. Staying busy, surely, but it's not the same.

Lord, keep them safe.

Lord, bring them home.

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of family.

The man who finds a wife finds a treasure,
and receives favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22, NLT

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. How happy is the man whose quiver is full of them! Psalm 127:3 & 5a, NLT

Monday, July 21, 2008


Single. 25. A poor seminarian. Living with my parents. Embarrassing. Slipping a little deeper into debt each month. Even more sad than the parent thing was embarrassing.

A gracious, anonymous soul paid my way to a missions conference in spirit-lifting Glorieta, New Mexico. Two-thousand plus missionaries & mission-hearted made the registration log a global address book. A glimpse of heaven.

Monday afternoon missions fair. Missionaries with colorful displays visiting with the mission-hearted. Enthusiasm airborne. Smiles lighting the room.

One smile outshone the rest. Bespoken in a sweet southern style with a playful spirit. In scrubs. Taking blood pressures. A missionary nurse. Bouncy, brown hair. Joy-abounding, blue eyes. I nudged a buddy, "I'm going to get my blood pressure checked."

She had a line. No one else did. She did. Was it the blood pressure service? Was it something else? I waited. Nervous. I talked. Gabbed with passersby. Befriended line-mates. Nerves & words go together for me. Then... it was my turn.

She spoke. "What are you doing stealing everyone in my line?" Knew I liked her. Straightforward with a strong dash of ornery. Don't know what I said in reply. Gone dumb.

She touched ME... heart palpitations... to take MY blood pressure... breathe, man, breathe. Acapella the Gaithers with full concert-going-crowd began to sing richly, with feeling, "She touched me, ooooooooh, she touched, and ooooooh, the joy that filled my soooooooo-oul."

Think... be cool... breathe... hearts beating out of my chest... she's touching me-eeee... oh no, if she takes my pulse... I'm busted... it might be kinda high.

"What are you, dead? Your pulse is 48." Thank you, Jesus, for a strong heart. Now, Lord Jesus, about this young-lady...

Got the nerve to ask her to share a meal. Was rejected. She had plans. Got the word that I could come too. Was elated. She was with me. Or I with her. But we were going to be together.

Returned to my detail-awaiting roommie hours later. Mind abuzz, but only one thing to say, "I'm gonna marry this girl."

Thank you, Father, for the ever-amazing gift of Melanie.

Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Proverbs 31:29

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. Romans 13:8

One day can change a life.

One life can change another.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vacation Pictures

A few pictures from our family vacation outside Westcliffe, CO. 8200 feet. At the end of the road. Absolutely wonderful.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Camel Part

The kids are looking forward to a trip to the zoo this evening. And as every parent knows, no trip to the Lincoln Children's Zoo is complete without a train ride.

One problem. Well two. Maybe four.

The train passes the camels. Two different pens. With two camels each equals four camels total.

As we've previously established, Mary Elizabeth has a sensitive nose. Camels stink. That's what she thinks.

Join the conversation this morning...

ME: I don't want to take a train ride today.
Daddy: You love the train ride.
ME: But I don't want to smell the camels.
Daddy: You like all rest of the train ride, right?
ME: I just don't like the camel part.
Daddy: Here's an idea, Mary. We ride the train & have fun. We just hold our noses on the camel part. How's that?
ME: Okay!

Problem solved.

Lord, remind me of this truth the next time my adult life stinks: Enjoy the ride. Just hold your nose on the camel part. It'll pass.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


LB. That's John Mark.

His Mama couldn't tolerate Jimmy. It was great. Elvis-voiced, "I'm Jimmy. J-I-M-M-Y. Jimmy. King of the Babies. And I'm cool, man. Cool." Seth roled over laughing each time. Like her Mama, Mary Elizabeth didn't see what was so funny.

So, now it's LB. Was Little Britches. Is Linebacker. You see, if your baby spills his milk & cries, he'll be a quarterback. If he spills it & throws something, he'll be a linebacker. That's John Mark. Not a mean kid. Just expresses himself physically. Even his affection is pounding or dog-piling. Rough as a corncob

Last week: He put a beautiful form tackle on his sister. (Yes, it was his physical style hug, but Daddy saw a tackle. Okay?!) Ran right into her. On his knees. He was low. He took her down, Baby! BAM! She's flat on her back windless with a "what just happened & should I cry?" look in her eyes. I come fired up. Pull them out of the pile like a coach. Slap him on the fanny, "Good job, John Mark! Wasn't that great, Mary?" Mary Elizabeth wasn't so sure.

Last night: Kids are bathed & sweet-smellin'. I'm reading to Mary Elizabeth on the floor. LB moves in. On his feet. Moving faster than they can go. He plows into me. Head to head. BAM. He cries. I wince. Blood flows. A gashed nose. I exclaim, "Wow, Mary, look at that, John Mark hit me so hard he made me bleed! Cool." Again, Mary Elizabeth just doesn't get it. She's a girl.

LB. Rough as a corncob. That's my boy!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Seth. Our first. A son. Beloved from the moment we knew we'd welcome him into the world. Now 10 days old. Small. Precious. A nursing infant. Natural and intimate he was sustained by Melanie.

Pain. Somethings wrong. A lump. Fevered and drained of life as she sustained life. Mastitis. Medicines prescribed & nursing recommended to counter the infection. An intimate act now torturous. Melanie shuddered each time he nursed. Crying out in exhausted whisper, "Oh, Little Man, you got to help Mama get better. Help Mama." She wept. He nursed.

Broken. I wept. I prayed. I served.

The best I could. As long as it took.

Years later, not of my own ingenuity, but guided by a marriage retreat questionnaire I asked Melanie, "When did you feel most loved by me?"

"When you took care of us when I had mastitis with Seth," immediately came her undoubted reply.

I never knew. I never would have guessed. I am glad I asked.

Selfish is easy. It comes natural.

Otherish is not. Not easy. Not natural. It is the other-centered, other-worldly, supernatural, agape love of God flowing through us.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:10-11

Friday, May 9, 2008

Tin Man

You know the scene: Dorothy; Scarecrow; Oz; following the yellow brick road; desirous of wishes from the Wizard; discover Tin Man.

Rain came too fast. Couldn't reach his oilcan. Standing rust-frozen. Speaking with locked jaw. Motioning with urgent eyes. Oilcan on the stump. Freed a few quick squirts at a time. Freed to be a new partner journeying to the Emerald City.

New scene: me; Lincoln; running through the neighborhood; first since the marathon; stiff; rusty; like Tin Man.

If only there was a puh-chink, puh-chink, puh-chink oilcan for me--would have been wonderful. Friends to apply it--even better. Shared encouragement along the road--the best.

Making Disciples is like this. Sin rusted. Maybe creaky. Even frozen. Unwilling, or unable, to free ourselves. We need the help of friends. Applying the oil of the Holy Spirit. Freed to live as the God of All Creation, not a would-be Wizard, desires. Freed to a life beyond anywhere over the rainbow we might imagine.

So encourage each other and build each other up,
just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT

Monday, May 5, 2008


Only fumes in the tank through the final three miles. Yet, immensely satisfied at the finish with arms raised and #1 fingers held high crossing the line.

"Mark that one of your list," offered a smiling woman handing an icy bottle of water.

Yes. Done. 26.2 miles. My first marathon.

You wonder why we do it?

Get out there. Run. Run long. Run with a goal. Run in pursuit. Run to know.

You'll learn the answer within.

Friday, May 2, 2008

You Stink!

My dear Mary Elizabeth has a sensitive nose.

I come in from my morning run. Satisfied, but sweaty. From the couch. Before I see her. I hear, "Daddy, you stink!"

When our eyes meet. I see the smile in hers. I can't see the rest of her face. She's covering her nose with her heart-patterned pink snugly blanket. There is a playful, Daddy's-heart-melting smile in those big brown eyes.

I stink.

Yet she loves me.

And it appears that she enjoys loving me. Even when I stink.

Thank God for little girls! Thank God for my little girl, ME.

ME loves me. ME reminds me that God loves me the same way. But unimaginably more.

Even when I stink.

Monday, April 14, 2008

24 degrees

I imagine that this morning was my last one to run with the temperature below freezing until next winter.

It was glorious.

Cold. Crisp. Still. Sunrise. Rhythmic steps. Inspiring iPod lyrics. Up a hill. And down. Through the neighborhood. And back. Thank you, Father, for one more glorious, cold morning.

Near perfect. World seems right. Just me & the Father talking about life. Running down the road.

I'll miss the bracing cold stepping out the door. I'll miss the steam rising from me before stepping back in.

24 degrees is gone for the season. But thank you, Father, that you are not seasonal.

You are with me no matter the weather.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

small world

the world is great
yet small

God is great
hold His hand

with Him
great will be small

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Difference

Oh, the difference a week makes. You've heard the cliche.

Is there truth to it?

Last Sunday I committed to give a certain amount of money to my church. Monday I was convicted to give this money to another with a need greater than my own. From the Spirit I heard, "Choose to respond in faith, Aaron, & not by what you think is reasonable." My reasoning can get me in trouble. What did I do last Monday?

I chose faith.

Tuesday a large anonymous gift was given to more-than-cover all my commitment to the church. The graciousness of our God & the loving generosity of others is amazing! Since then God has provided further "evidence" for my ever-reasonable mind to walk by faith & not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The situation is still tenuous. I still feel some guilty responsibility. Yet I am strengthened in my faith that The One I trust is in absolute control.

On Thursday another guest arrived impolite & certainly without invitation. A dear brother I love & respect received a diagnosis of cancer. How do I respond?

Maybe the answer I need is in a change to the cliche...

Oh, the difference faith makes.

The righteous will live by faith. Galatians 3:11b

Monday, March 10, 2008


The Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Monster came calling recently.

I would've thought...

I could've done...

I should've said...

Second-guessing. Hurting. Grieving. Asking the "if" question in every way conceivable. Wishing I'd have known or done or been better.

The Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Monster can beat a guy up. Have you been there? Did he leave a mark? Can you show me the scars?

My shortcomings are long. My fallibilities are infinite. My needs are... do I even know them all?

Lord Jesus, you have promised. I will trust. Lead. I will follow. Speak. I will listen. That Monster represents the past. I'll take those lumps. Learn those lessons. Not miss those steps again. I will walk on, humbled, as your follower. I trust my future to you, Jesus.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How is it?

How is that God uses me? A weak vessel. Prone to wander. Distracted by the lesser. Tempted by evil. Willing to question. Admittedly sinful.

How is it that the Creator, Sustainer, Lover, Redeemer, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God of the whole universe would choose to use the likes of any of us at all? Failed. Flawed. Selfish. Sinful. Misgiving. Humanity. To accomplish His will on Earth?

Immediately. As I sit & ponder. Wondering what to write. How to answer myself. The Spirit reminds that the Father already has.

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. He chose the lowly things of this world, and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is our righteousness, holiness & redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:27-30

He chose.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Where do I put my trust?

You know the feeling. Bopping along through life. All is going well. Maybe even great. You're trusting the Lord. But you have no big challenges. You're comfortable. And then...

Something comes along to knock you off balance. Pull the rug out. Tip your apple cart. Fill-the-blank with your own cliche. But you know the feeling, right?

And, as it may seem, the creators of disequilibrium tend to bring a stationwagon load of their unexpected cousins along for the visit too. Before you know it you're on the existential elevator rapidly heading south.

"Whoa! Where have I put my trust? What have I allowed to become my security? Where has my dependence relocated all-the-while me unaware that it moved out?"

Where do I really put my trust? Or, more appropriately, who do I put my trust in?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

Do I put my trust in the created (myself & others) or in the Creator?

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:3

"Oh, Lord my God, keep me from foolish, human dependence. May my trust be firmly, only in You."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Love It!

I'm a man of words. What can I say? I love to talk & write. Blogging gives me an outlet. So here we go.

At the same time I am thoughtful, even ponderous, and I need time to think & process. Blogging aids the flow. So... here we go.