Monday, December 24, 2007


In 1861 an elderly American was filled with sorrow at the tragic death of his wife in a fire. The Civil War broke out that same year, adding to his sorrow. Two years later this man again knew sadness when his own son was seriously wounded as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac.

And so it was on Christmas Day in 1863, upon hearing church bells ringing loudly and clearly, that poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, author of Paul Revere's Ride, Song of Hiawatha, and others, wrote the words to this fine Christmas song, a song we don't sing often enough:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old familiar carols play, 
And wild and sweet the words repeat Of “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said, 
For hate is strong and mocks the song Of “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

At this Christmas time, whether you are in sorrow or in joy, please know that God is not dead, nor is He asleep. He knows your every need and longs to comfort you and be the friend and Savior you need. Seek Him this season, and He will give your life meaning and your heart peace. For His is the real and true peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding, the peace that comes because you know your sins are forgiven.

A peace-filled Christmas to you all.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Did you make a shopping list this year? Did you include Jesus on it? What do you think Jesus would want for Christmas? What would be on His "shopping list"? Here's a few things I think He might like:

1. Keep His name in Christmas
2. Call it a Christmas tree, no matter who started it or why it came in to being
3. Don't worry about the neighbors; put up His nativity outdoors anyway
4. Send a letter of encouragement to a soldier spending Christmas far from home and pray for His protection
5. Instead of complaining about our government leaders, ask Him to bless them
6. Share His love with someone in a nursing home
7. Tell your children about Him and why He came to be their Savior
8. Forgive somebody who has hurt you this past year
9. Support one of His missionaries with prayers and more
10. Buy a gift for someone He loves who really needs one

It'd be a better world if we gave at least Him some of these, right?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


We Americans live in an age that prides itself in logical explanations for everything. We are a materialistic people and nowhere is this more apparent than in these days that lead up to Christmas. C.S. Lewis once said that our greatest human problem is not that we ask too much out of life but rather that we expect too little. "We are far too easily pleased," said Lewis. How true! How many people, young or old, believe happiness will come if they just get (or give) the correct gift, or attend the right party, or meet the right person.

Advent and Christmas are not about logical explanations or materialism. They are about giving people hope. William Willimon wrote, "Hope tells us that there is more to life than meets the eye. Hope tells us that there is more to the past than history can tell us. There is more going on in the present moment than we know. There is more to our relationships to one another than we are aware." True hope is found in Jesus, Son of God and son of man.

Two days ago gunmen took precious human life, killing people in Colorado churches. They felt their reasons warranted such actions; they apparently had lost all hope in other means. Our sinful world can do that. It can rob us of joy and kill our hope. But Advent can bring us new hope. If we look away from ourselves for just a moment and towards the God who loved the world enough to forgive our sins, then perhaps we can retrieve some of the hope we need for daily life and survival.

Advent and Christmas are paradoxes today. They are grounded in Biblical prophesy and the promises of God, yet seem evident only in the glitz and glitter of Madison Avenue. Advent and Christmas are grounded in a real faith in the one true God, a God loving and generous to sinners. This Advent and Christmas, God once again invites us to take a journey to capture the hope we can never find under the tree or at the party.

This Advent and Christmas God invites us to leave our predictable world of Santa Claus and enter the risky world of trust in His promises. He invites us to hear His servants Isaiah and Mary as they proclaim the mystery of the Word became flesh, the God who became a human being so He could lead His people through a sea of despair and into the Promised Land of grace and mercy. Those who heed His invitation will find joy and peace that surpass all human understanding.

There's no logical explanation of how this will happen, even as there is no logical explanation for the evil that men may do during this time of year. God's love defies logic, for it comes from His nature. The true God, the God who made heaven and earth, is the God who is love wrapped up in the man Jesus Christ.

Thank You, O Lord, for our Savior Jesus,

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Last Sunday the Church Year ended and the Christian season of Advent began. Advent is a time of preparation for Christ's coming. We live between two advents: Advent I was Christ's first coming to the world through human birth as Mary's Son at Bethlehem, and Advent II is Christ's second coming in judgment, on the last day. 80% of the world's 1.5 billion Christians observe the liturgical season of Advent in some way.

Advent has been around since 490 AD when Perpetuus, bishop of Tours, advocated fasting from St. Martin's day, November 11, to Christmas Eve. Sometime later Advent began the Sunday closest to St. Andrew's Day, November 30, The season can last anywhere from 22 to 28 days and is usually observed with some solemnity, its color being purple for penitence, or more recently, blue. Advent is always the time to prepare for Christ's coming.

Among many middle eastern Christians, St. Barbara's Day, December 4, signals the beginning of the Christmas season. In Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Netherlands, and parts of Germany, St. Nicholas' Day, December 6, begins Christmas festivities when shoes or stockings are set out to be filled with gifts for good children. Some Dutch people still gather to watch St. Nick's ship land in Amsterdam, then watch him ride off on his white horse. Obviously, a lot of this pageantry crossed over to America, except that our St. Nicholas arrives via the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade but doesn't deliver his gifts until December 24.

Swedes wait until St. Lucy's Day, December 13, to commence their Christmas observances. Lucy, who died in Italy in 304 AD, became a favorite among Scandinavian Christians in the eleventh century. Lucy's name comes from the Latin word lux (light). Scandinavians were pretty desperate for light around that time of year, so they latched onto St. Lucy. Her annual remembrance involves a girl from each household wearing a wreath of lingonberry leaves and lighted candles on her head while coming down the stairway, and then serves the family breakfast.

Advent II is a time of waiting, not just for Christmas, but especially for Christ's Second Coming. Our Lord Jesus came to be our Savior, and He will come again on Judgment Day at a time no one knows. Christians should be prepared by worshipping the Lord regularly, reading His Word often, and daily trusting Him for all things. Like Jesus' parable of the Wise Young Maidens tells us, only those who are ready for the Lord will be invited into the Wedding Feast. Being ready means trusting God for all things at all times.

Happy Advent!

Monday, November 19, 2007


A shopper at the local mall needed a break, so she bought herself a little bag of cookies, got a cup of coffee, and sat at one of the crowded mall tables to read her paper. A man also sat down at her table and began reading a newspaper. She reached out and took a cookie, and the man seated across from reached out and took one, too. She was a bit startled but she did not say anything. A few moments later she took another cookie, and once again the man took a cookie also. Though a bit uneasy at him eating her cookies, she did not say anything.

After a sip of coffee she took another cookie. And so did the man! Now this upset her, especially since there was only one cookie was left. The man also saw the one cookie that was left and before she could say anything, broke it, gave half to her, and walked away, eating the other half. She glared at him. "What a jerk!" she thought, "Some men think they're just so smart!" Her coffee break was ruined and already she was thinking what she'd tell her husband about this thoughtless cookie thief! So she picked up her purse, and underneath it discovered another bag of cookies, the bag she'd bought, unopened. She had been eating his cookies the whole time!

I like that story. It makes me think about how we treat God when He provides us with so much. It also makes me think how often we assume everything is ours. Deuteronomy 8:11 is good for us to remember these days: "When you have eaten and are satisfied, then praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you." 

We often believe that all we have is ours and comes only from our own efforts. The Bible tells us not to forget that it's all from God, gifts we may work to get, but nonetheless are all from God. Every National Day of Thanksgiving is meant to remind us it is God who gives us all we have. 

Not long ago famous people all over the world were polled by a magazine with the question: "If you could be granted one wish that will come true right now - what would that be?" There were some interesting responses, but only one response impressed the magazine's editors so much that they commented on it specifically. That response was this: "I wish I could have an even greater appreciation for what I already have."

That's a great thing to wish for. What do you think would happen if each of us suddenly became a more appreciative of all God has given us? 

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!"

Monday, November 12, 2007


At 11 AM on November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed ending World War One, "the war to end all wars." It did not, of course, and it is certain that as long as this world exists, wars will continue to be fought. A major historian has estimated that in the 3,500 years of recorded human history, only 250 of those years held no armed conflict somewhere in the world.

Some may hang their heads in shame at this, but we must face reality: Humanity lives in a fallen state; the sinful condition of rebellion that began with Adam and Eve will ever be upon us. Only when we stand before the Lord on Judgment Day will there be an end to the effects of sin in the world.

Thus, there will always be a need for Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross.  There is never a time in our lives that we do not need Jesus, whether infant or aged, waking or sleeping. He is our lifeline in turbulant waters, our defense from the forces of evil. He is our Savior who gives us eternal life.

It was not my privilege to serve in the Armed Forces, but many among my family and friends have done so. I give thanks for them each day, as well as pray for their courage, duty and safety. The war we are in today is called by some World War Four, World War Three being the Cold War. Some deny it is a war at all, and yet we know the truth of that. One and a half million service U.S. men and women are in uniform today, one third of them in combat zones. They are the best trained and equipped, the finest soldiers our nation has ever had. And this is true: there will never be a time when our nation will not need its Armed Forces.

Psalm 46 tells us that God is our mighty fortress and our strength, our present help in every trouble. Therefore we do not fear as those who have no hope. Rather, we trust Him and rejoice that He is with us always, in every circumstance, unto the end of the age. We all need to trust Jesus, and we all need His forgiveness. And we can always reach out to Him through prayer.

If you'd like to send an E-card to encourage one of our troops, Xerox Corp makes it very easy at: . I urge you all to give thanks to God for all those who serve, protect and defend us, whether past or present. 

And give thanks most of all for Jesus,

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Yesterday as I took the garbage out I wondered which of it my mother would have kept. I grew up in the 50's with practical parents: a mother, God love her, who reused aluminum foil, plastic bags, and containers we routinely pitch. She was the original recycle queen. Dad was the fixer. He truly valued his friends, and both were good neighbors. She was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones, and he liked that, too.

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused on farming and raising us five kids. Their best friends lived barely a half mile away. I can see them now, Dad with his farmer's tan, white shirt with sleeves rolled up, and Mom in a house dress, fingers just dried on a dish towel.

It always seemed time for fixing the kitchen screen door, hemming a dress, wallpapering a room, greasing the combine, or going to church. It was their way of life, all that fixing, cooking, church going. There'd better be a good reason for throwing things away. I still feel that way.

My mother died in the fall 13 years ago, and Dad followed her a year and a half later, both in their 90s. And I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes things don't last. Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away, never to return.

So, while we have it, it's best we love it and care for it. And fix it when it's broken. This is true of old cars, sick pets, aging grandparents, hurting children, ailing marriages, even ailing church memberships.

We keep these because they are worth it, and because we are worth it. There's much that is precious about that church we belong to, old friends that moved away, or family members, even if they annoy us. There are just some things that make life important, and people we know who are special. We'd better work to keep them.

I suppose not everything or everyone is a keeper, but there are more around us than we think. It's okay to toss out old junk, but maybe we should retrieve an old relationship. You and I won't measured by the stuff we leave behind, but by the friends we kept. 

And thanks be to our Lord Jesus there will be a grand reunion in heaven, right?

Monday, October 29, 2007


On the day after the Colorado Rockies lost the World Series, there were a lot of sick hearts around. They had won so many games so amazingly, and we thought they would win it all or at least some. But they did not.

I've been thinking a lot today about expectations, those events or realities in life we long for and believe must come true. Dreams and expectations are powerful agents in our lives. But when expectations go unfulfilled or dreams are dashed, they can come equally damaging and painful.

There is a fine line between WANTING our expectations and NEEDING them to be true. It's the difference between a life of joyful trust or painful disappointment. Everyone has experienced the pain of broken expectations, but not everyone heals well from the sadness they create. If we believe expectations MUST come true, we are setting ourselves up for possible devastation. One of the painful effects of failed expectations is the loss of trust. If an important dream has been dashed, it can be difficult to trust others, ourselves or even trust God.

God calls us to place our trust in His promises, not in human deeds. Only His promises merit our complete and total trust. God gives us reason to trust Him. He promised a Savior who would grant eternal life to all who trust Him, and that Savior came to us in Jesus of Nazareth. He has promised we will never have more trouble than we can endure, and He has promised an eternity free of pain and sorrow to all who place their trust in Jesus. And God keeps His promises!

Proverbs 13:12 tells us, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Today, may each of you who are heartsick over anything, whether it seems great or small, realize God gives us what is needful, what lasts in life. It is all yours in Jesus your Savior.

May a godly and heartfelt dream come true for you very soon.

Monday, October 22, 2007


"Never borrow from the future" is another way of saying not to worry. But we do anyway, so we need to concentrate on what is truly important in life. Last night someone sent me a list of 35 such things; I am sending you the ten best.

1. PRAY EVERY DAY: Somehow, sometime, anywhere, talk to God.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE: Don't be a baggage handler.

3. SEPARATE WORRY FROM CONCERN: Worry is concern without faith.

4. MAKE FRIENDS WITH GODLY PEOPLE: They will hold you up when you need it.

5. DEVELOP A FORGIVING ATTITUDE: The world has enough cranky people.

6. THANK GOD FOR ONE NEW THING EACH DAY: Thankfulness makes a happy heart.

7. LAUGH AT YOURSELF A LITTLE: But not at others, at least not out loud.

8. TALK LESS, LISTEN MORE: The world has enough meaningless words.

9. GET ENOUGH REST: You are important enough to do this.

10. TAKE LIFE ONE DAY AT A TIME: Tomorrow will come soon enough.

Now concentrate on just one each day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The Rockies have won the National League pennant! It's an exciting time to live in the Denver area, though also being Red Sox fans is making life at the Tasler home a little conflicted.

Few folks may know that the Colorado Rockies baseball team is perhaps the only team in pro sports to have a paid chaplain on staff. To have all the excitement of a baseball World Series contender, and then to note how some of the Rockies players simply thank God for the opportunity they have.... Well, it's a great time to live in Colorado!

Yesterday it was relief pitcher Matt Herges whose words of faith helped us understand why these Rockies seem to have their heads and their hearts in the right places. This is his witness below, from Tuesday's Rocky Mountain News.

"(Manager Clint) Hurdle called on veteran Matt Herges to replace Morales. Herges pitched two shutdown innings to earn the win that made his team champions of the National League for the first time.  (Herges), a journeyman who has pitched for every team in the NL West, is having perhaps his finest season. "Someone is showing mercy on me, let's put it that way," the veteran said after the Rocks won the Division Series (last night).

"There's favor that's thrown on me and I know it's from my Father in heaven. But I don't deserve it, I know that, and like I keep saying, I'm humbled by it. "I'm grateful that Clint gives me the ball. That's all you want as a reliever, especially in my situation, begging for a job this winter, getting a job on a favor because I knew (Rockies vice president of baseball operations) Bill Geivett. I'm humbled beyond belief by it."

For those expecting something here more spiritual, I hope you will pardon this mention of baseball. I have always said God really doesn't care about sports, or how I or anyone else play them. But maybe I'm wrong. For sure it's refreshing to hear that a successful, almost miraculous, team has made room for God. And it's good even to hear the secular newspapers write about it.

Go Rockies!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


"Citius, Fortius, Altius - Faster, Stronger, Higher." This is the motto of the International Olympics which will hold its games in 2008. This week Carol and I have been part of the "altius," as we spent several days at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The hundreds of spendidly colorful balloons ascending into the morning sunrise have given us memories that will remain with us as long as we live.

There was tragedy this year when a passenger died as a balloon basket caught on power lines. This always makes some question ballooning and whether or not such an event should be held in a densely populated area.

But one thing is sure: regardless of obvious dangers, mankind will ever strive for faster, stronger and higher achievements which show mastery over earth and the human body. It is in our human nature to challenge ourselves, especially to ascend the heavens. Ever since the Tower of Babel, mankind has sought to reach into the heavens, for the thrill of height, perhaps even to touch the face of God, as the poet writes.

We have also enjoyed a week with a hundred or more travellers in the 2007 Region 11 Airstream Rally. We people gather together for all manner of clubs and organizations, for mutual interest, friendship, and most of all, community. It is in our nature to want to join others on our journey through life. It begins with family and extends to those with whom we choose to spend our time, for whatever the reason.

David wrote in Psalm 16:1, "Keep me safe, O God, for in You I take refuge." Since the very beginning, people have sought safety in numbers, for even God said in Genesis 2, "It is not good for man to be alone." The Christian church was given us as a place of such refuge. I pray you have that place and those people with whom you are safe, the place where you have refuge with God, the fellowship of people and the nourishment of His Word and Sacraments.

"Citius, Fortius, Altius." One day those who trust in Christ will experience the strength, the height, and yes, even the speed of heaven and God's presence.

I pray you'll all be there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


When I woke up this morning, I felt like a winner. Last night our home team, the Colorado Rockies, won a 13 inning tiebreaker game that gave them the Wild Card berth in the National Baseball League playoffs. For the first time in twelve years, the Rockies will be playing postseason baseball, so around here we all feel like winners.

The winning run will probably be debated because it's unsure if the runner touched home plate. But the umpire declared him safe. When asked by a sportscaster if he actually touched the plate, the runner said, "I don't know if I touched the plate or not, but the umpire called me safe and that's all that matters."

What he said also rings true in our relationship with God. Before the game Carol and I had gone to the viewing of a Christian friend who had gone to his eternal rest with the Lord. We were among his many friends who gathered to visit with his family. Rev. David Koch was a good man in every way, kind and gentle, always trying to do what was right. But how good he was really doesn't matter, because he is now in heaven.

The fact that he had spent his life as a pastor was not a factor in his salvation, nor that he was a fine husband and father and Christian friend. What mattered was that God had declared him safe at home because of his Savior. David was a winner because of what Jesus did, not what David did. Though he was a sinner like all of us, and deserved nothing, the Heavenly Father declared him sinless because of faith in Jesus. Thus David is safe in his heavenly home. 

God loves us no matter what. Because of the mercies and love of Jesus Christ, all who trust in Him will be safe in our heavenly home where there are no losers. And there's no cancer there, either. When we wake up in heaven, we are all winners.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for doing what was needed, so that all who trust in You are winners.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Anyone who has traveled by road this summer probably has a "detour story." Detours can be irritating and inconvenient. They slow you down, disrupt your schedule, and may even ruin your plans. Detours make us wonder why and why now?

When we're forced to take a detour, something that may help is seeing if there is there a reason beyond the road construction, the repair or even serious accident that has caused us to take a different route. Are we being taught patience? Is our detour showing us a part of God's creation we would otherwise have missed? Have we avoided something worse if we'd have stayed on our planned road?

Detours often come on our road of life, times when we're prevented from doing what we'd planned or hoped. Illness, bad experience or some kind of loss may cause us to ask "Why?" We want to know why we can't get to our longed-for goal. What is God trying to teach us? Why couldn't He have done it some other way?

In time we may discover the reason, that this "detour" was a better way for us, but right now we can't see it. We may even try to take a different route than the detour signs direct us. (I once took a "better way" and ended up in a field of mud!) Detours are there for a reason, and we'd best stay on the recommended road.

We humans also make sinful detours away from God, into fields of mud and sin that can sink us. That's why Jesus had to take a detour from His eternal glory road to live a few years in this world so that He could help us. His detour led Him to the cross. He went there so we wouldn't have to. Calvary consumed Him for a short time so that we could spend an eternity in heaven.

Let's trust the Lord for what He has done, and follow those road signs!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Who can forgive our sins? And how is it done? I recently saw "The Last Sin Eater," a film about the Welsh practice of trying to cleanse the sins of a deceased person. At the funeral, a beggar-outcast of the community, designated "the sin eater," is given ritual food and drink and thereby takes away (absolves) the sins of the deceased person so (s)he can rest in peace. The sin eater is otherwise shunned by the people, for in him they saw the embodiment of all their sins and evil deeds.

This ancient practice is linked with the basic human need to have one's sins forgiven. The Old Testament Israelites for a time had the practice of a "scapegoat," a live goat over whose head the high priest confessed all the sins of the Israelites. This goat was then sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), to symbolize the removal of their sins. It was a fore-shadowing of the work of Jesus.

In "The Last Sin Eater," the 1850s Appalachian community finally stopped using this practice after being reminded of the Gospel in which Jesus was the final sin eater, the last scapegoat. Today we know that His words, "It is finished," signalled the end of all such human attempts to remove sin. You and I can't do it. Only God removes sin - no human ritual can do what He does.

On September 11, the anniversary of the death of nearly 3,000 innocent people, we need to think about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean excusing sin, or even making friends of those who have offended us. It does not mean letting our guard down. It is laying aside our rightful retribution. It is our decision not to pursue what is justly ours, but to give it to God who balances the scales. Forgiveness is what God did for us in Jesus. He punished Him, made Him the scapegoat, and in the cross absorbed our sins. By the punishment He took, we are forgiven.

As much as we might like to, we cannot make Moslems our scapegoat. They are not the cause of evil in the world. All humans need Jesus Christ, for without Him we will but wander in the wilderness of sin and misery. When we trust in the merits of our Lord Jesus, when we have faith in Him, our sins are forgiven and we can also forgive others. We all need Jesus Christ and the blessings which He alone can give.

Today I hope you will forgive someone.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Where did Labor Day come from? History has almost forgotten Peter McGuire, an Irish-American cabinet maker who proposed a day dedicated to all who labor. Old records describe him as a red-headed, fiery, eloquent leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. McGuire introduced his idea in 1882. "Let us have, a festive day during which a parade through the streets of the city would permit public tribute to American Industry," he said.

The following September, New York workers staged a parade up Broadway to Union Square, despite warnings against doing so. McGuire's holiday eventually moved across the country as did recognition of the rights of the working man. In 1884, Detroit workers celebrated their first Labor Day. Finally in 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a Labor Day holiday bill, making it a national observance. The timing was ironic since earlier that year he had called up federal troops in a failed attempt to stop a strike by the American Railway Union (ARU). The creation of Labor Day, therefore, was most certainly part of American political history.

Despite the fact that our sweat and hard work come as a result of human sin, Almighty God gives human labor dignity and value. But He also gives us a day of rest. Sunday is the Christian "sabbath", the day when people can and ought to rest from their labors and take time for worship. An hour or two each week in God's house to receive God's Word and Sacrament is far more valuable than any amount of money we can earn during that time. And it's worth more than our "sleeping in" as well, for the rest God gives goes beyond bodily needs. It gives rest and refreshment to our souls.

Last week Carol and I joined a small mission church about 20 minutes from our home. It's the first church I've joined where I chose to. We really enjoy our new church and volunteered to take over a project there to develop a "home-made" pictorial membership directory. I mention this because to us, belonging to a church means doing something helpful there. Church membership is active, not merely passive. We receive from the Lord, but we also give back, out of gratitude. Offerings are part of worship, and part of our offerings are helpful activities.

Give thanks to God this weekend for the privilege of work. Most people no longer engage in the kind of heavy physical labor once common to all, but we still labor to earn a living and to help others in some day.

May all your labors be good.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


God always provides for us, often in surprising ways. It was sultry yesterday morning as I started walking to Dallas Love Field. I'd flown in the day before to help friends renew their vows on their 35th anniversary. They'd left me at my motel the night before, and it turned out to be a bit far from the airport and had no shuttle. My slip-on shoes, while good for airport security, were no good for walking, but I figured the walk would do me good, even in the heat.

It turned out to be a rough neighborhood with smelly trash and broken sidewalks. After I'd walked about a block, a car pulled over and a woman driver said, "Can I take you somewhere?" "Excuse me?" I replied. "Can I give you a lift?" she said. She was a Hispanic woman, neatly dressed, about 50, probably on her way to work, and she offered me a ride. And I accepted! 

"Were you at my motel, the Red Roof Inn back there?" I asked as I got in. "No," she replied, "but I used to work there. They gave me a job when I needed one." "Why did you offer me a ride?" I asked. "You remind me of my father," she said again, "He left us long ago, but I think of him. Maybe he is like you now. I miss him." I thanked her profusely, as we drove and I realized my walk would have been 2-3 miles in the heat and humidity.

As we neared the airport I offered her $5 for the ride and she said, "No, no, no, I do this for you! I'm a Christian woman. My friends tell me, 'Carmen, stop doing that, somebody's going to kill you one day,' and I say, 'I'm going to die anyway, so it might as well be doing something good'. This I want to do." She dropped me off at the front gate and left me standing there amazed, with a lump in my throat. Why did she offer me a ride?

"She was just looking for a pickup," some might say, cynically. But at 8:30 AM? Most of you will think I was unwise accepting a ride from a stranger in a big city. "Think what could have happened," others might say. I prefer to consider this little unexpected episode as the kindness of a Christian woman, a little help from the Lord when I needed it. Her actions certainly improved my attitude about Dallas!  

Perhaps Carmen is searching for her father, or maybe I looked like a pathetic old man who needed help. Or maybe she was doing her daily good deed and I happened to be there. But whatever the case, I appreciated it. God does move people to do surprising things, to take chances, even in this uncertain world.

Hebrews 13 tells us, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Heaven knows I'm no angel, but I think Carmen was. Rather than question peoples' motives or actions, we should just accept their kindnesses. And then go out and help someone else. 

Yes, there is evil in the world, but not around every corner. God still and always provides. He wants us to share our random acts of kindness with others, because there are all sorts of people out there who need them.

Thank you, Carman, and thank You, Lord.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


This past week I "came out of retirement" and assisted dear friends in saying goodbye to their 23 day old baby son. It's among the hardest things a minister will do, and it is, by far, the most difficult thing parents can experience.  "The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the lord," (Job 1:21) are true words, but they weigh heavy on the heart at such times.

We went to visit them one evening on a day with a slow rain. As we drove, the setting sun broke out, full and bright in the west, even as rain still sprinkled on us. And I'm sure you know what followed: a lovely complete rainbow appeared in the eastern sky. It was beautiful and so colorful.

After the rain comes the rainbow, God's promise of salvation. All daytime showers produce rainbows, yet we don't always see them, either because we aren't looking from the right direction, or we aren't looking at all. But after the rain, there are always rainbows. If there was no rain, there would be no rainbow.

Every good thing in life is a rainbow, a blessing from God, but we don't always recognize it as such. This is true either because we are seeing it from the wrong perspective, or else we are too busy to look for it. Sometimes we can only see the "bad" in every blessing (it's not just air, it's "polluted air," or it's not just the warming sun, it's the "cancer-causing sun.") But rainbows are still rainbows, no matter how we see them.

God gives rainbows after every rain, especially when we suffer the storms of illness, frailty, conflict or anything that causes grief. Thankfully, after the hard things pour on us, then follows the rainbows of health or strength or peace. Even if we can't see them right away, they are still there.

Trusting in Jesus Christ, we are given strength to endure whatever suffering we have. He endured suffering and death for us on the cross, and promises strength for every burden. His love helps us to enjoy rainbows here and unending heavenly joys there. Our Lord Jesus makes life worth living, and death worth dying.

Praise God for our everlasting rainbow of heaven.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


We saw the Persid Meteor Shower this weekend, a dazzling display of particles from outer space entering our atmosphere, streaking across the night sky, “shooting stars,” we call them, here only a second, noticed by few. We saw them in the mountains at 10,000 feet on the backdrop of a million real stars, those faraway specks that always light the night sky.

That morning we'd worshipped at the Air Force Academy Chapel with our cadet niece and heard the timeless message of God's grace for us passing creatures, ours by faith in Jesus Christ. And I wondered, are people like shooting stars?

Secular scientists tell us humans live a mere moment, meaningless flashes across time. But the Triune God says believers in Christ are among the heavenly bodies, destined to remain His precious souls for all eternity. We are not meaningless, but His blessed ones.

Joseph and Edith are not shooting stars. We'd met them before as visitors to Epiphany Lutheran. They live in Larkspur, CO, and for years have come each Sunday to help as they can, assisting the AF chaplain by serving the cadets donuts and coffee after chapel each week. I asked them why they did.

“We are at war, and this is how we can do our part,” they said. Joseph and Edith came from Hungary 35 years ago and know well of true oppression, of war and the enemies of freedom. Now American citizens, they spend a few hours each week encouraging tired cadets, worshipping with them, and helping make their Sunday morning a little more pleasant. 

God's people are the real stars, not the clever or the rich or the wise of this world. Believers make their mark for eternity by their faith which shows itself in works of love. God's mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ are ours forever. Those who trust Him will never fade away. The actions of God's people do make a difference in this fleeting world. You are God's child, not a meaningless speck in time.

Thank You, Lord, for our soldiers, their families, and all those who support them. Bless and protect them all. Thank you for the freedom You have given us, and thank you most of all for our eternity by faith in Jesus, Your Son, amen.

The public is always welcome to worship with our cadets on Sunday mornings.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


A young minister was walking with an older minister in a garden one day. New in his work of the Gospel, he was struggling about what God had for him to do, the kind of ministry he should seek. So he was asking the older, well seasoned minister for advice. The older man gently plucked a lovely rosebud, handed it to the young man and said, "Open this without tearing off any petals." "That's not possible - I'd ruin it," said the young man. The old man then recited to him this poem:

It is only a tiny rosebud, A flower of God's design;
But I cannot unfold the petals With these clumsy hands of mine.

The secret of unfolding flowers Is not known to such as I.
God opens this flower so sweetly, But in my hands, they die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud, This flower of God's design,
Then how can I have the wisdom To unfold this life of mine?

So I'll trust Him for His leading, Each moment of my day.
I will look to Him for guidance Each step along my way.

The path that lies before me, Only God my Father knows.
I'll trust Him to unfold the moments, Just as He unfolds the rose.

You and I can "plan our work and work our plan," but our life is ever and always in God's hands. Commit to Him each of your days as it comes, and trust that He will show you what way is best. Our path of life will have many unexpected turns and even some potholes. We will meet many along the way who will enrich our lives or drain us of strength. But Jesus is always there to forgive us and give us a new start again.

Let God unfold your life the way He has planned for you,

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


We got home Sunday night after our road trip of 24 days and 3400 miles. During the final hundred miles, the tune from Dvorak's New World Symphony kept going through my mind ("Going home, going home, I'm just going home.") It felt very good to wake up in our home bedroom again.

Monday morning was spent unloading our old Airstream trailer and moving it back to storage. Strange, but each time I walked through its door, it felt a little like home, too. And on the trip, home was our trailer.

So, what is "home," anyway?

It seems to me we all have more than one. One home is the primary address where we live and have those things near and dear to us, our clothes, furniture, personal mementoes and such. Another might be the "home base" we have while away from our regular home. Another home might be where we were born, where Mom and Dad lived.

An old saying goes, "Home is Where the Heart Is." To me, home is where you know there's love waiting for you. Home is where you know you have a place reserved just for you, regardless of what's happened that day.

For Christians, the ultimate home is heaven, and so we sing, "I'm but a stranger here; heaven is my home." This one is the best, because there are no mortgage payments, no house cleaning or yardwork, and the Landlord is the best a person could ever have. He's prepared a place just for you, and life there will be sweet and fine.

Where is home for you? Are things there okay? Not everyone can say they are. Bad health, money shortage, poor relationships, or other kind of strife can turn home into a hell on earth. I pray yours isn't like that, but if it is worse than better, remember the Lord. Go to Him in faith and humility. Ask His help and He will answer.

Well folks, there's yardwork waiting, but you'll hear no complaints from this guy. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

Welcome home, fellow travellers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


In his novel, "Travels With Charlie," John Steinbeck wrote, “You don’t take the trip, the trip takes you.” I thought of his words yesterday when the temperature reached 111 degrees in the South Dakota badlands, and the little air conditioner could not cool our travel trailer any longer.

I didn’t consider going home, just wishing it was cooler like our house in Castle Rock usually is. That night the water in our trailer tank was warm enough for a bath without even heating it!

The day before we had driven through DeSmet, SD, site of five of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s "Little House" books, and I had been wondering about how the pioneers handled the heat, humidity and mosquitoes. They had no air conditioning, electricity, or any of the conveniences we have. There must have been times when they felt they could go no farther, handle no more heat, or work no more. But still they continued.

There are times in our lives when what we do may seem more than we can handle. A situation gets too far out of control, a responsibility seems too great, or a difficulty saps our strength. At such times we would like to quit, or at least let someone else take over. But we don’t know who we can ask.

At those times, perhaps we can, and should, give our troubles to someone else. Jesus is willing to share them, to help us handle that difficulty, or give us that strength we need. He may not take our troubles away, but He will help us deal with them. He won’t remove our loads, but He will give us stronger backs. Sometimes He just gives us a little needed hand.

When I was young, I was expected to help with the farm chores. One of my tasks was to carry pails of water for the chickens. I recall one night trying to use a five-gallon pail. It was far too heavy, but I kept on dragging it, splashing water on my pants. Suddenly, my pail got lighter! My older brother Fritz had come along side me and helped carry the load, lifting the handle with one finger, just enough to make it easier for me. I carried it, but he was helping me do it.

When the heat is too great, God is always there. When the load is too much, He will help. Ask Him for help, and He will give you even more than you need.

And He always comes with us on our trips through life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


We all have things around the house we don’t use, but we don’t want to get rid of them, either. Exercise equipment, for example.

A few years ago I bought an exercise bike, one that works your arms, and fans the air as you peddle it. I took it home with great plans - it would help my legs, breathing and stamina, and maybe even bring back one or two of those six-pack abs I once thought I had – and all for the garage sale price of $15! I used it that first day for about 10 minutes, and admired it as it sat there on my deck.

The next day I was too busy to use it, and the next, and the next. In the coming months, I used it a few more times, but began sweeping around it, moving it to a less conspicuous place, but always left it in sight and ready for use.

And even though I didn’t use it much, I felt good just having it. It was a good purchase and was just what I needed. I was sure I would one day use it regularly, maybe when I retire. Well, a month after I retired, I put it in storage. It was getting in the way. I thought setting it out for the trash - but no, I couldn’t do that. That bike was just what I needed, and I needed having it there, knowing I could use it whenever I wanted to. Even now I can picture just where it is, ready for my use when this trip is over. But I wonder if I will…

If you think about it, most of us treat our Bibles that way. We all have one, maybe several, and though they look nice and sit on our shelves or coffee tables, they’re usually dusty and very unused. But they are still there, ready for when we need them! We surely feel better just having our Bible near at hand.

You see, one of these days we’re going to read our Bible, and regularly. And when that day comes, it will strengthen our faith, increase our knowledge, brace up our morals, and make us better people. But right now we’re busy, so our Bibles just sit there. Of course, we will never get rid of them, just because we don’t use them. After all, we feel better just having our Bible close by. We just don’t have the time to read it right now, do we?

When I get back from this trip, I’m going to get that exercise bike out again. And I just know this time I will use it regularly. Now, how about my Bible?

So, how about it? Will you join me?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


“I wish I could have met him,” she said as we left the old house. Have you ever known or met someone famous, someone everyone knows? I guess it depends on what one would consider “famous.” We've all met a “name dropper,” someone who likes to tell others of the famous people (s)he knows. A fellow once regaled us such with an array of important people he said he knew, that we found him boring rather than amazing.

Carol and I recently stayed in Winterset, IA, the Madison County seat (“Bridges of Madison County”), and birthplace of Marion Robert Morrison, also known as John Wayne. We slipped into the final tour of the day at the tiny house on the corner of Second and South streets where he was born and lived three years before moving away. The rooms were filled with photos and memorabilia of “Duke's” life. The guide said as we left, “I met many of his family members last May at his 100th birthday. I wish I could have met him, but he died in 1979. He's buried in California.”

There is something in most of us that wants to know someone famous, someone who has made a name for him or herself. I must be one of those, as I've even had dreams about visiting with a president, an actor or other famous person. It felt good in the dream, and even awhile after I woke up. But I've never met any of those famous folks personally.

And yet I have met, spoken with, and have even been befriended by the most important person who ever lived. In fact this Person knows me at my worst and still loves me enough to die for me. He is Jesus of Nazareth, King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Son of the Living God and offers eternal life to me and everyone who trusts in Him. And I know Him very personally - I talk to Him just about every day.

My Friend lived a long time ago, but no one knows quite where He was born. We know approximately where He died, but His body is not there, or anywhere on earth, for He arose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. And though we may not have met Him personally, one day we shall see Him face to face. That will be a great day for all mankind, and all will rejoice at the meeting. All, that is, except for unbelievers.

And though He lived 2,000 years ago, all believers have met Him personally, for He lives in their hearts. There are thousands, even millions, of “little Christs” all over the world, in every nation and home where believers trust Him and call upon His name.

“I wish I could have met him,” said our guide. We may not have met him, but we can all have met Him, through His Holy Word, through His followers, in worship. and some day in glory everlasting.

And then we'll be with Him forever!

Monday, July 2, 2007


As we approach the Fourth of July, my thoughts turn to the men and women of our Armed Forces who stand in the gap for us, defending our freedom, as well as helping the people of other nations achieve theirs. America is one of the few nations in the world who have consistently sent their armed forces to help other nations when in need. May God bless all our soldiers!

The average age of the American soldier is 20 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy, not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but still old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's. And he has probably never collected unemployment.

He's a recent High School graduate. He was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.

He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and also to a 155mm howitzer. He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the parts of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must. He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop, or stand until he is told to march.

He obeys orders without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individuality. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues, washing one while wearing the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to clean his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.

If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you, and if you're hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low. He has learned to use his hands like weapons and his weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime. He has stood atop dead bodies, and has helped to create them.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of our National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering a burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking.

And yet, in an odd twist, day in and day out, far away from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful. Just as did his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American fighting man that has kept this country free for 230 years. He asks nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.

And now we also have women over there who are also in harm's way, doing their part in this tradition of going to war when our nation calls us to do so. Let us remember them always, for they have earned our respect and admiration with their sweat and blood.

"Dear Lord, hold our troops in Your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Thank you for the men and women of our Armed Forces, in Jesus' name, amen."

Friday, June 29, 2007


"We have to bring the troops home now! This war has gone on too long," some people are saying. We may bring them home, at least most of them, but that won't be the end of the war.

The current war the United States is waging against "terrorism" is actually a war with Islam. No one likes to say this fact, but it is true. Since Mohammed wrote down his new faith in the Koran during the 7th century A.D., Islam's primary purpose has been to dominate the world. The basic meaning of "Islam" is submission, forced submission, and getting the world to submit to Islam is the sole underlying purpose of the Koran.

"Spread the word by the sword" has been, and still is, a basic tenant of the Moslem faith. The problem over the centuries has been that they lacked the right combination of tools to get the job done. To bring about world domination, Islamists know they need money, technology and manpower. Until the 20th century, they had only one of the three factors, manpower. But with the world's current dependence on both technology and oil, now they have the other two. Thus, the mullahs and ayatollahs believe now is the time.

Mohammed instructed his followers to win the world for their god. As soon as he had made enough converts, he raised an army to wage war against Christians and Jews, and his followers have been raising such armies ever since. This is jihad, to struggle against the infidel to achieve world domination. But always they were hampered by lack of funds, as well as their people in the right places. The 20th century has brought another important element which has helped the three factors to fall into place, and that is Moslem immigration into developed nations.

Today the developed nations, mostly western Europe, Russia, and even China, are in a death spiral. Following the advice of alarmists, these nations have adopted policies to limit population growth, at that same time as they have become dependant on the state providing universal health care and hefty pensions. Limiting population has resulted in the "silent killer" of not having enough native sons and daughters born to fund all the pensions and health care of its aging population.

An aging nation needs young workers to fund the aged, and the only two groups currently providing more than their share of babies are Hispanics and Moslems. Hispanics generally can't cross the oceans, so for the past decade or two Moslem immigrants have been pouring into Britain, Germany and Russia.

The dirty little secret on the Continent today is that the populations of Belgium, Spain, Italy, and France are now from 25% to 40% Moslem, giving rise by some to the term "Eurabia." Those immigrants are mostly young, single Moslem men, looking for purpose in life, because married Moslem men are staying home with their wives and growing families.

Islam allows a worthy man to marry up to four wives, and so all the available women are being married to only one fourth to one third of the Moslem men with the money to support them. That leaves around two thirds to three fourths of the young Moslem men unable to marry (unless they marry non-Moslem wives). Some men can marry, but most can't. The Koran forbids fornication. Imagine their frustration!

But the Koran's author knew something like this might happen, so he put in a clause promising those unmarried fellows a paradise that includes 70 virgins each if they become martyrs in the jihad.

We live at a time of unprecedented technology, especially in communication. Cell phones are everywhere. The internet connects everyone. "How to…" websites provide information on bomb-making, material availability, targets and the latest technology of enemy soldiers. Oil production provides the funds for materials, travel and salaries, as well as the occasional bribes and pay-offs needed to get things done.

Today, then, all the factors are in place for the ultimate goal: 1) PEOPLE - thousands upon thousands of frustrated men, located in the right places, with the promise of a sexual paradise in martyrdom, 2) TECHNOLOGY - internet, cell phones and instant information of every kind, and 3) MONEY - the Middle East oil patch funds it all. Thus, Islam's rulers knows that the time is right if they are ever going to bring the world under the rule of Allah.

Which brings us to one more factor: 4) TIME. The oil money won't last forever. The current anti-American fervor will run its course. Therefore, the fanatics of Islam know they must do it now, in the next twenty to thirty years, before the oil money runs out and the religious fervor runs its course. Oil won't keep coming out of Arab earth forever. With technology making the world smaller, Islam's adherents will change, becoming more tolerant, and their desires will cease to burn so brightly. Thus, now is the time to bring about the dreams and goals of Mohammed!

And now is the time for a rookie prognosticator to make a prediction. I believe the war against terror will get worse before it gets better, and will probably last 20 years or more. This war will be the single worst drain on our economy, and unless Americans and Europeans and Russians and the enlightened of this world come to their senses, this war will be lost. We have entirely too many people in perpetual denial. Islamists will not be won over by being nice to them. Friendship and gentleness have never been assets in dealing with Moslems, and they will always be used against us.

ISLAM vs. THE WORLD may be the basis for biblical Armageddon, for it shows the uniting of a great power that is completely opposed to Jesus Christ against those nations whose cultures rest on Judeo-Christian principles. And it is those nations who are the last great hope for a world free of Islamic domination.

Question is, will people in those nations wake up and smell the (arabic) coffee?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I picked up my old chainsaw yesterday to do some overdue tree trimming. After many, many pulls, I did get the old motor running, though it smoked and coughed. But then it's done that lately because it's old, so I didn't expect much better from it.

As I let it "warm up," I noticed the adjustment screw was covered with sawdust, so I reached in with my finger and cleaned it off, and in doing so, turned the screw just a little. The motor ran a little better! So I picked up a screw driver and a brush, did some more cleaning and adjusting. Before long, that old saw was humming like it was new - wow! Here I was ready to junk it, and all it needed was adjustment. After using it for years, that set screw must slowly have tightened down, not letting enough gas get to the spark plug. But when adjusted correctly, that motor ran like it was new again.

Oh, that it would be so easy to be adjusted in life! Sometimes our lives get to coughing and sputtering, and we begin to think that's just the way we are, that we can't expect much better. But perhaps we are that way because very slowly, over the years, we've picked up a bad habit here, or a nasty attitude there and a wrong thought there. And we've had them so long we think it's part of who we are, that we can't change. But when God's Word shows us the truth of what we've become, and shows us what Jesus did for us, we can get cleaned up and changed for the better.

Of course, we can't do this changing by ourselves. And we can never become so good that we don't need some kind of changing. Our sinful nature will always keep our motors sputtering. Certain sins will always foul up our spark plugs. Bad fuel will always make us run poorly. But in Jesus Christ, we can receive the eternal adjustment of forgiveness, daily, not just ever year or so. And God's loving adjustments help us avoid becoming set wrong in our ways.

The particles of sawdust, like an infinite amount of "little" sins, may even cover the obvious. But when the goodness of God in Jesus Christ enters our lives, especially when God sends a Christian friend who cares enough to be truthful to us, we are given the chance for a new start. Our old sinful self already has a cleansing from the cross of Christ that makes all things new.

I guess I won't toss the old saw. After all, God didn't toss me out, either.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


If a little is good, a lot must be better, right? Not always! With some pleasures, some foods, or even time with some people, we should stop at just a little. Any more, and there's only trouble a-waiting.

Cashews, for instance. This morning as I write you, my stomach regrets that its owner hadn't the sense to stop with just a little. The intended goodness of a small handful last night turned into a lot more, and now I wish I'd left that can of Planters on the shelf. But they seemed so good at the time!

Life is like that. We know better, but we do it anyway. We know we should stop certain things, but we don't. St. Paul knew about this when he wrote in Romans 7:19, "The good that I would, that I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (KJV) Or to put it in terms of how I feel this morning: "The good little handful, that I ate not; The four handfuls that I knew were evil, those I ate!"

Paul wrote further in Romans 7:24, "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" He must have gotten into the same can of nuts!

So much of life has to do with knowing our limits. Too much work can be as bad for you as too much leisure. A little salt can be good (in fact, we need it), but too much can be poison. Moderation is needed in all things; we need to find balance.

About the only thing we can't get enough of is God's grace. We can never get too much of that wonderful stuff! His love is new every morning because we need it every morning - and every noon and every night. A little handful is not enough, for we daily sin much and indeed deserve only punishment. We need His mercy by the bucketful. There's never a moment when we don't need Jesus. We need His forgiveness every moment.

So thanks be to God, we have it! With God's love for us in Jesus, a little is good, and a lot is far better. And ten times that amount is never more too much. The same is true of faith. A faith the size of a mustard seed is enough, but faith the size of a watermelon is even better.

I'm starting to feel better now - walking around helps, and so does Alka Seltzer. I hope I remember this lesson. But I probably won't. After all, I hadn't bought a can of cashews for at least six months because of the last time....

Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving us poor, miserable sinners,