Tuesday, July 29, 2008


This message is written by Tony Snow, Christian journalist and White House Press Secretary who recently died after a long battle with cancer. His positive and godly perspective is what kept him, husband, youthful father and friend, going each day amid his several health crises. I hope you will find something in his words that will help you this day:

"Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

"When our faith flags, He throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, to speak of us!

"This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the true touch of God.

"What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God's hand."

May God always give us such a shining light of faith in the public arena!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


In my sunroom I have a staff I can take with me on walks. My walking staff is a gift from my brother and is made from "diamond willow." It is lightweight and has a unique shape, with about a dozen diamond shaped notches of different sizes on its lovely rust-colored wood. Diamond willow is found in northern Minnesota and North Dakota, and is highly sought after for canes and walking staffs.

The interesting thing is that diamond willow is not a species. It's a regular small willow tree that's been attacked by a fungus that occurs around it in nature, especially along river banks where willows often grow. The beautiful diamond shapes are actually enlarged notches caused by the stress of the tree trying to avoid the attacking spores. The results of the stress are rare formations not seen in any other tree. The result of the stress is a form and beauty unseen in any other species of tree.

A diamond willow staff doesn't come looking beautiful. It is ugly in its natural state and needs to have the rough outer bark stripped away to show the beauty inside. It needs an artist to polish and sand it, so as to show its inner true character. Without the artist, people will just toss it aside as useless.

All willows have such fungi growing around them, but only certain ones react by being changed. Without the stress, it would be just a regular stick, but because of the stress and what it has done to the small tree trunk, this diamond willow staff is admired for its unusual beauty.

You and I often have stress in our lives that shapes us, perhaps in ways we'd rather not see. It can change our attitude and affect our relationships with others, including our loved ones. Everyone has stress - no one can aviod it. The important thing is how we react to it and what it can do to us. Sometimes we may think it makes us worse, but with God's help it can make us unique and beautiful, depending on what it does to us.

People are not all the same. We are unique individuals God has created and life has shaped. Jesus has forgiven us our sins and stripped away our outer ugly nature. Because of His great love for us, He has made us beautiful so that we can "shine like the stars" (Philippians 2:15) as we show forth our faith in Him.

I hope some day you can see the beauty of a diamond willow staff.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The Summer Olympics will soon be back again, this year from Beijing, China. This fall Carol and I will be taking a cruise around the Mediterranean, flying first to Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona was the site of the 1992 Olympics and provided one of Track and Field's most memorable moments. Britain's Derek Redmond was considered the fastest man in the world in the 400-meters, a certain contender for the gold medal. When the gun sounded, he was running the race of his life, ahead of the field as he rounded the turn into the backstretch. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain go up the back of his leg, and he fell headlong onto the track with a torn hamstring.

As medical attendants approached, Redmond fought to his feet and began hopping on one leg, in a valiant attempt to finish the race. As he did so, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, shoved aside security guards and ran to Redmond's side. "You don't have to do this," he told the young man. "Yes, I do," said Derek. "Well, then," said the big man, "we're going to finish this together." And they did. Refusing the help of medical attendants, tears of pain and disappointment streaming down his face, Derek Redmond completed his race, held up by his father, Jim Redmond.

As they crossed the finish line, the crowd rose in wild, victorious cheers to the pair. Derek Redmond didn't win the gold, but he gave to all who saw it an incredible memory of an athlete's courage, aided by a loving father who left his seat in the stands and to help him finish his race.

That's precisely what God does for us. Whenever we are experiencing pain, injured by life, or are struggling to finish the race we are in, we have a loving Father who won't let us do it alone. He is there by our side, holding us up. Our Heavenly Father left His place in heaven to come alongside us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ who tells us, "I am with you always to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)

Just lean on Him!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


In the 1980's,12 year-old Amy Alden of Newfoundland, Canada, found a clutch of 16 goslings whose mother goose had died. She brought them home, fed them and quickly they grew and became family pets on her front porch. But Amy wanted them to succeed in the wild, for she knew if they depended only on her, they would never learn to live on their own.

So Amy and her father, a pilot, build an ultralight aircraft shaped like a huge goose in flight. Her Dad taught her to fly it and somehow coaxed the young geese to follow it. Amy then flew the craft more than two thousand miles south until they came to the Atlantic wetlands where the Canadian geese wintered. Amy and her father left them there, confident they would adapt to the wild. But surprise of surprises, the following summer, all 16 geese returned home to Amy's front porch.

Where is your home? Carol and I returned after three weeks on the road, glad to sleep in our own bed and sit in our favorite chairs again. During our trip, we met many "fulltimers," people whose home is on wheels, their motor coach or trailer, and we wondered how it felt not to have that special place where we could return, the place we call home. In Bozeman we worshipped two Sundays at First Lutheran, welcomed by fellow Lutherans as we sang hymns and liturgy from our familiar hymnal, just like at home.

Where is your permanent, your eternal home? In the 19th Century, composer Anton Dvorzak wrote his "New World Symphony" after visiting America, and incorporated into it the haunting spiritual, "Going Home," whose gentle melody has accompanied many a person to the cemetery. Most Christians long for their eternal home with the Lord, and thanks be to God that He provides a blessed home to all who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I'm but a stranger here - Heaven is my home!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Independence Day, July 4, is just around the corner, and I think we should make it a summer Thanksgiving Day. More than 100 years ago, the great evangelist and preacher, Dwight Moody, was preaching from the 103rd Psalm and especially the verse that says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." The person who recorded his words stated that he said with a twinkle in his eye, "Of course, we can't remember all of God's benefits, but that doesn't mean we should forget them, either!"

Today Carol and I drove through Yellowstone, America's largest and first National Park, and there we saw the marvelous handiwork of God. The geysers and mountain grandeur of the place are unmatched in the world. But as Old Faithful blew into the air a hundred feet or more, someone behind me said to one of his friends, "This happens because Yellowstone is one giant caldera, one of three super volcanoes in the world, and if it ever blew, that would be the end of the United States."

There's always someone to remind us of the possible bad in the midst of the existing good, isn't there? We returned home to read newspaper stories of governmental failure, economic weakness and even some church scandal. I think we need to read and re-read Psalm 103 or 23 or 46, any of those which remind us of God's blessings. Like Rev. Moody said, "Of course, we can't remember all of God's benefits, but that doesn't mean we should forget them, either!"

I don't know what you are planning for this Friday's July 4 at your home, but I pray it will include a few moments of giving thanks to God for His benefits. You have a list of things, just like I do. Then go ahead and enjoy your food and beverage and friends or just an easy chair in the evening.

There's a whole lot more good in America than bad!