Monday, June 24, 2013


It started one night and was a little spooky. The lamp on Carol's night stand came on by itself and went off. She had noticed it it once during the day. In the middle of the night, however, it was hard to miss. The lamp went on, got brighter, then went off. It went on and off several times so she nudged me to look at it. "What's going on?" she asked.

I walked around to her side of the bed with the light flickering off all over the place. At two o'clock in the morning this event was a bit beyond fascinating. We both knew it was one of those lamps with a touch-sensory switch that worked through the lamp's metal parts, so I touched the shade, and it went on and off and on again. Why?

"Ah," I thought, and reached over to the knob on top. It was slightly loose. I tightened it, perhaps an eighth of a turn, and the flickering stopped! I tested it and it worked as it should. Amazing! A tiny turn to tighten the knob and the problem was solved. How simple!

The night stand was close to the bed, so the loose knob allowed the lamp to wobble as if someone was touching it. Our flickering electric lamp was not spiritual phenomenon but a physical one. It was a loose connection, not a message from God.

Or was it? When small or large things work loose in our lives, when we no longer living as we know we should be or are as close to God as we once were, our life also may start to flicker. If we don't do something about it, we'll soon find ourselves out of control. But if we seek the reasons, perhaps that we are no longer as "tight" with God as we should be, then we can change things.

When we turn to God in repentance and faith, the flickering of life will change and hopefully stop. Our spiritual bulb may be dim, or it may need to be changed or the lamp may need to be re-plugged in. We may need to check whether we have moved away from God, or have allowed dust to settle between us and God.

Only when we realize that we are part of the problem, will the flickering of life be dealt with in a positive way. Only then can we realize Jesus is the solution to our problems. Remember, He once said, "You are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14)

How steadily will you shine today?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Our neighbors of twelve years just moved. After many days of packing, moving and house touch-up, their house is empty. The garbage men hauled away the last of the leftovers, the realtor placed a "For Sale" sign on the lawn, and their former home is ready for a new resident.

Their home is a little ranch with finished basement, and like ours, smaller than most around here. Yet they raised five children during their twenty-five years there. As the original owners when the house was new, their time was unusually long by today's standards.

I've often thought what it takes to make a home. It's certainly more than size, shape and usefulness of a building. So many homes today are large for the amount of people in them. Carol and I have lived in our home next door for twelve years, the longest I've lived in any one place. That means I've moved a lot, and also that we like it here.

Making a home is a blessing, but losing a home can be devastating. This past week we saw the loss of 480 homes in the Black Forest fire about forty miles south of here, and it made us contemplate the value of our own home. To lose a home through divorce or financial reversal is also devastating.

How many rooms do you have in your house? Jesus once said, "In my Father's house are many rooms, [and] I am going there to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2) How many of those rooms do you live in?

It's estimated that regardless of a house's size, people usually live in about one thousand square feet of its space. I have an idea our neighbor's five children and parents lived in every square inch of their home. They were very good neighbors, and we shall miss them.

I was born and grew up in a house that was probably purchased as a kit. It was there when Mom and Dad bought it in 1937 and was the exact replica of one we saw in a 1909 Sears Roebuck catalog. Mom and Dad lived there forty years, and is still standing today, but just barely.

More important than how many rooms we have is whether or not we will be in our Father's House when our time of departure comes. Believers will be there, not because of the goodness of their lives, but because of Christ's perfect life and death and His promise that all who trust and have faith in Him will have eternal life in our Father's House.

What a houseful of children our Father will have then!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


This past week Carol and I attended the funeral of a retired Lutheran School Teacher. During the sermon, my pastor said, "Never underestimate what God has done through your life." When he repeated it again, I realized how important his thought was. Never think God can't do something wonderful through your acts, teaching or witness. He does every day.

Sometimes we think that wonderful things are only done by others, especially the talented, the trained, or the clever. But God speaks wonderful words, does fine deeds, and instills lasting values in people through the lives of His men, women and children, and especially those who live their Christian Faith. 

I attended Country School for Grades one through six, from 1951-1957. Great Bend District #2 Rural School was built on a corner six miles from the nearest town with one main room that often held thirty students, plus two tiny cloak rooms, a small library and a big basement where we played when it was too cold to go outside. It had no indoor plumbing, but we didn't expect there would be. Bathrooms were used outside and drinking water was carried from the farm across the road. Their telephone was our only connection with the world during the school day.

But it wasn't the charm of a one-room building that made Country School important; it was our teachers. They imparted the knowledge we needed, and they opened young minds to the wonders of history, arithmetic, reading, writing, spelling and science. 

Sometimes our teachers taught us several years, and sometimes several months, such as one special teacher who left after Christmas because she was "in a family way." I won't embarrass her by giving her name, but I do want to say, that after all these years, she still sends me an occasional card for my birthday or Christmas. At such times, I sit down and write her a short letter telling her what I am doing now. And I hope she always hears me say, "Thanks!" 

This wonderful lady, as well other teachers I've had, helped nurture a lifetime of learning. When I was older they let me teach the younger students spelling or the arithmetic tables (that's how one teacher teaches six classes). I wonder if anyone reading this also spent time teaching - or learning - in a one-room school. I wonder if all you teachers realize how you have affected the lives of your students. 

As my pastor said of that faithful teacher, "Never underestimate what God has done through your life." Teachers! It's how God gets much of His work done. "Show me Your ways, O Lord, and teach me Your paths." (Psalm 25:4)

If you can read and understand this, thank a teacher!

Monday, June 3, 2013


I always find lessons in my summer yard work. Last Tuesday provided a perfect one. I had planned to mow my lawn in about a half hour, as usual, but my mower had other ideas, so it wouldn't start.

The trusty Craftsman had been fickle before, but always its motor worked. Just not that day. It would start, then stop. Start, stop. Finally, no start. So I pushed it to the garage and got out the tools! Well, yes, the tank was empty, but after more gas, still no start, no matter what.

I knew enough about small motors to realize it was a fuel problem, so I took part the carburetor off, cleaned things and put it together. Still no start. Took it apart again, cleaned it more, put it together, still no start. Finally, muttering things better left unsaid, I took it apart a third time. This time I blew out all lines and openings with compressed air. Put it together and, YES! it started - on the first pull!

What did I learn? 1) A person can't always fix a problem on a first try, 2) A small bit of dirt can create a big problem, and, 3) Problems don't fix themselves - you have to get involved.

I usually try to to follow "Occam's Razor." William of Occam (died 1347) said that when there are several solutions to a problem, the simplest one is usually the right one. Example: when your printer won't print, check your cables before installing a new printer driver or buying a new printer. Example here: blow out fuel line before putting the motor back together.

Bits of dirt can clog our lives too. We know they're there, but we may not believe they're a problem. Something else or someone else is the problem, not us. So, rather than first getting rid of our own dirt, we blame other people's dirt, or we say dirt is really good for us, or else we ignore the dirt and hope it will disappear. But dirt usually stays, and life may not run well again until it's gone.

That's why Jesus is so important, because He died on Calvary to get rid of our dirt. But first we must admit we are dirty, and then believe He's the only one who can truly clean us up. Trusting Jesus is the simplest solution, the one that always works. William of Occam - priest, philosopher and theologian - would have agreed.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)