Category Archives: Memories

Who changed your life?


Who were the people who most influenced your life? What is it they did that made such an impact on you that it changed your life? It might have been a mentor, teacher, pastor, friend, parent, or someone outside the realm of your daily life. Likely it was someone who saw things in your life differently than you could.


I can think of a number of people who impacted my life. Some of them were brief encounters and others are people who have walked alongside me for longer periods of time. One of the shortest encounters happened when I was putting in a window in my house in Washington, Iowa. An itinerant pastor, maybe a church planter was walking by and offered to help me. The thing that struck me was that he wasn’t pushing to recruit me to his church. He just stopped by to encourage a stranger and lend a helping hand. It taught me to remember to look for ways to encourage and help others without having an agenda of my own.


I remember the abundant generosity and joy of living that Tom and Lucy Aycock demonstrated while focusing intently on pursuing – and celebrating – God.


I think about Pastor Carlton Christensen who mentored me spiritually in such a gentle way. Without criticizing where I was in my journey he gently showed me how to get on the right path. I also remember his compassion in helping me put a starter in my car…on Christmas Eve day…in the bitter cold temperatures. Pastor Christensen taught me the importance of being real and helping others even if it came at personal cost.


I remember co-teaching with Dr. Terry Penniman at the community college. On one lunch break we stopped at a local DQ Brazier. I was eager to get our food and visit about our upcoming class, but Terry was busy complimenting the new manager on how the restaurant looked. Terry taught me the importance of noticing others and speaking value into their lives.


My dear bride of the last 43 years and 7 months continues to teach me the art of being gentle with others, of slowing down, and the importance of laughter. And oh, she has taught me so much more.


I could list several others who have influenced my life in profound ways. I remember Danny Hodges saying we all need to be in positions of being influenced and influencing others in positive ways. His challenge was that we each should have a Paul, a Barnabus, and a Timothy in our lives. His reference was to Paul is an older, more mature person who could mentor us. Barnabus refers to a fellow sojourner who might share our path for a period of time, likely someone who shares our struggles, a friend in whom to confide. And Timothy refers to those people in whom we invest by pouring our wisdom and experience into their lives. These people will probably change over the course of your life. Ideally, a balanced life that is bent on maturing would have all three.


How about you? Do you have a Paul who could mentor you in the challenging parts of your life? Or a Barnabus with whom you can share mutual trials and celebrations? And are you investing your life in a Timothy, a younger person or one who is newer to the spiritual walk?


These are the relationships that make a legacy life, a life of great purpose and passion. Ask God to guide you in purposeful relationships that contribute to your legacy.


Mocking and sarcasm


Whether it be sports, politics, religion, or any other divisive arena in life, there are those who love to mock their opponents or anyone who disagrees with them. We learned it as children and sometimes carry it with us as adults. Whether it’s the Facebook posts we share or the opinionated lives we live, mocking others with a sarcastic attitude is a prevalent activity.


We see it in many cross sections of society, including some Christians who fall into this trap. But is it right behavior for Christians? It may be permissible, but is it beneficial? When looking at how you and I should conduct our lives, a good place to start is asking what the Bible says. I searched the Bible for the word “mock” and found 72 references…NONE of them commended by God. Always, mockers are portrayed as wicked and evil. Never are they presented as worthy or righteous.


Another place to look as an example of how we should behave is the life and character of Jesus. Where do you find that Jesus mocked and made fun of others? I don’t find any. Oh, for sure he sometimes called them out, particularly the hypocritical religious leaders who violated their responsibility to the people and to God, but he didn’t stoop to mocking them with sarcastic attacks. He simply presented the truth. Shouldn’t we do what Jesus did?


You might think to yourself, “Hey lighten up. It’s just a little fun.” But it’s more than that. It grows on you and starts to become your identity. People come to expect you to be witty, mocking, and sarcastic. It changes who you are. Putting others down never lifts you up. I know because that used to be my life; characterized with a biting wit,  based on poking fun at people instead of presenting a solution, mocking instead of making a difference as God’s advocate, being sarcastic instead of sincere.


There’ nothing wrong with having fun, but let’s not do it at the expense of others, even our enemies and opponents. It’s not scriptural and it isn’t beneficial for any of us. We want to live lives focused on and honorable to God. For our own sake and the sake of those watching us, let’s say “no!” tomocking and sarcasm!  If friends ask what’s up, tell them you’ve decided it doesn’t flow with the bible.,maybe you’ll be a wake call to someone else.


“It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Matthew 15:11

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32


Finding peace when prayers aren’t answered

We often think of being a peacemaker (if we consider it at all) as being a reconciler between two people or two groups. It may be a disagreement among friends or fighting children, or conflict within a business or ministry team. I remember working as a prison guard at a maximum security prison. I received a message over my walkie talkie to go to the exercise area in the yard and break up a fight in “the yard.” There I encountered two huge guys who looked like they could bench press my Honda Civic. I distinctly remember my voice cracking as I confronted these giants saying, “Excuse me men, but you’re going to have to accompany me to the captain’s office to resolve this matter.” Guards carried no weapons, but recognizing the authority in my trembling voice and 150 pound frame, they came along peacefully. 🙂


Maybe you have considerable angst over conflicting ideas, tactics or personalities. It might  involve you and someone you love dearly. Then again, it might involve that certain person who constantly rubs you raw.


What does the bible say about this? Live at peace, love one another, consider the interests of others. Paul found  common ground in being all things to all people. Hostage negotiators and international peace negotiators know the value of finding common ground that is in keeping with essential core values. It’s no less important for you and me. Do you ever find yourself getting in a heated argument that could be easily solved to the satisfaction of both? So it was in the classic story of two girls, each wanting the last orange. One wanted the orange pulp for juice while the other wanted the rind for marmalade. It’s not uncommon for two people to ultimately desire the same outcome (satisfaction for example) without realizing the answer is found in discovering each other’s interests.


Even if we can’t seem to discover any common ground, we can acknowledge our disagreement without acting in disagreeable ways.  My step dad (who was always “dad” to me) advised me to never let the sun go down on my anger. Whether the conflict was between me and God, my loving spouse, a friend, or myself, sometimes the solution was to acknowledge the discomfort while also affirming my respect, love, and commitment to the other. It might sound something like this: “I recognize we have not come to a satisfactory solution yet, but I love you and I am committed to understanding your position more clearly ; I’m not going away. I’ll be here when we’re ready to resolve this important matter more calmly.” If you pray before leaving the issue for the day, be sure to ask for God’s guidance and wisdom, NOT for him to make the other person see YOUR way of thinking!


This seems to me to be a good approach for unanswered prayers! Time after time, we may have come before God pleading him to “see things our way” and bless “our plans. ” We  may come with seemingly unbearable sorrow, disappointment or even anger to share. Don’t you think he already knows and understands? He’s a big God. Believe me, if the psalmist and later King David, who God called a man after his own heart, prayed this way, so can you. Just end with, “But Lord, I don’t want to remain feeling this way; I want to be closer. Draw me close to you in love and peace.


Becoming a peacemaker is not accomplished in a single blog post, or series of blogs or books. It is a lifetime quest. Jesus clearly demonstrated his desire to bring peace to common people like you and me, but not to those who persisted in rejecting his truth. He told his disciples there are times to persevere and times to “shake the dust from your sandals” and move on. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.


Like Joni Tada Erickson, sometimes the source of our conflict never changes… in this life. But we needn’t let that paralyze our desire and Spirit-led ability to remain faithful peacemakers with ourselves, with others, and God.


When good desires become demands and idols


What was on your mind when you woke up this morning? When you laid your head on the pillow last night? Was it something you strongly desire or something you dread? Or perhaps an endless list of to-do items? Do your desires have to do with your expectation of others? It’s not unreasonable to have desires for good things, harmony and productivity between employers and workers, pastors and staff and church members, individuals and their friends, children and their parents and visa versa.


But problems beset us when desires become demands, and demands become idols in our lives. Idols? Yes , idols can rise up from good desires just as they can from ungodly ones. In placing demands on others that they change to our liking, it becomes an easy misstep to becoming our  brother’s judge. We can become so absorbed by doing good we fail to see if those deeds are actually ordained by God.


And so it might have been with our call to move to the Bolivian mission field, at least in our sense of timing. We still feel the call to support the CMA mission in Bolivia. But there are many ways to fulfill that call. After all, it’s his mission, not mine! I was reminded recently:

Sometimes God changes our plans, but never his purpose for us.


So, we had to surrender this to God. We put it on “Abraham’s Altar” realizing that God might accept our sacrifice or, like with Isaac, present an alternate sacrifice…serving him by living in Bolivia or by spending 2-3 months each each year or by some other God-directed means. Perhaps you have dreams and aspirations that seem God ordained. Offer them to God and be satisfied with whatever he brings about. His plans are always best. Act like you believe it!


How are you to know if your desires and ambitions are God designed or a product of your own desires for recognition or comfort? It always starts with honestly asking the Spirit to reveal the motives of your heart and mind:

What preoccupies my attention?

Ask yourself what I need to have to make me happy, satisfied and fulfilled?

What brings me the most frustration, regret, anger, or disappointment?


The Apostle Paul suffered some affliction, “a thorn in his side.” Three times he asked God to remove it. After that he resigned to accept the condition as part of God’s design for him.  Joni Tada Erickson sought a number of “faith healers” before coming to the same conclusion. Does God continue to reveal miracles today? I believe so. It might be an inexplainable healing like the removal of the last bit of cancer from my body.  Or it might be an irritating delay on a trip that kept you from being involved in a tragic accident had you not been delayed.


We can all imagine a great number of things that would bring us satisfaction. But consider this:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… Ephesians 3:20


Whatever your desire, our God is able to bless you even more than you ask or imagine. I’m asking for relief from ongoing pain for me and others I care for. I want to walk again. God might grant that. But even if he doesn’t, I will yet trust him – because he has something unimaginably better in mind, either in this life or the next.


Ask God for your heart’s desire in accordance to his generous and loving nature, but also trust him completely for his protection and provision for you. Ask him to reveal, even good desires that might become an idol in your life, and thus keep you from his very best.




Piece of mind or peace of mind – revisited


Revisiting a personal reflection from March 2013 –


“I’m gonna give that person a piece of my mind!”


How often have you heard (or said) that? The problem of course is that we all have just so many pieces, and after awhile we are sure to run out of them. And then, there we are, mindless with no peace.


I shudder to think of how many times my life used to express that sentiment. I used to be an angry guy with such high expectations for everyone, including myself. There was not much joy in that piece-meal life. Finally, I came to the end of my rope. I realized that I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. And furthermore, I had no real hope of changing myself by my own power. I already knew who Jesus was and proclaimed to follow Him. My mouth said, “Jesus is Lord” but my actions said, “I am Lord of my life. I am in charge.” Yes, in charge of my hopeless anger.


The solution was to give it up, to stop being in charge. Now, surrender doesn’t come easy to any of us. But in such battles such as this, real victory only comes through surrender. You can either be a slave to selfish ways or you can surrender to God’s leadership in your life. You can either insist on remaining the same, or you can be transformed. Over thirty years ago, I gave up a life of anger and bitterness. I gave up giving people a piece of my mind and chose instead to pursue peace of mind.


How about you? Maybe your lack of peace isn’t the result of anger or bitterness or resentment. Maybe what threatens your peace is the idea you can control your destiny. But it’s tiring being general manager of the world, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s battles of self confidence that erode your sense of personal peace and satisfaction. Memories from the past continue to play out in your head and steal your hope for peace today. Or maybe, you are one of millions who are trying so hard to always do the right thing. You’re the good deed doer everyone admires but you find no restorative peace because you’re carrying the weight yourself instead of cooperating with the Holy Spirit. Good deeds are an expression and overflow of our peace with God, NOT the route to it. For God so loved the world he sent his Son, not you or me. And his Son sent his very Spirit, not your skills or mine so that we might know his peace.


We are called to be peacemakers. Is there anything that stands in the way of living at peace with others in your life? God has the answer and the power to change that. Give it up to Him and find peace. Bring it all before his Spirit, and let him bring you peace and show you how to live at peace with God who then teaches you to live at peace with others.


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18


How do the children in your life see God?


It’s interesting to know what goes on in the minds of kids. I remember watching the original Art Linkletter show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” One of my more memorable episodes was when Art asked how many brothers and sisters they had. One boy replied, “There are six of us.” Art followed up, “And what are their ages?” The boy answered: “Well, I’m 7 and the others are 6, 5, 4, 2, and 1”. “What happened to 3?” Art asked. The boy quickly retorted, “Oh, that’s the year we got the new color TV!” Yes, kids do say the darnedest things. And it seems they have an opinion about everything, including God.


How do the kids in your your life see God?


Jounalist Kelly Wallace asked her children this question. Her youngest daughter sees God as the moral of stories. Her older daughter sees God as having control over everything. She turned to author Monica Parker who wrote a book on the subject. Even in houses with no particular spiritual connection, kids have thoughts about God. Here are some of her findings:

Her 7 year old son said, “I know who’s seen God…doctors, when they cut people open.”

God doesn’t have a house. He doesn’t need one except on Sundays when he needs to rest. – Ethan 8

“I wish God could make me famous SOON!” – Kayla 8 1/2

“I call God when I need help with things but not my homework, because my mom says I have to do that by myself.” – Jackson, 7.

“My father never believed you were real but my mom did, but then she got sick and now he prays to you but my mom doesn’t anymore.” – Max 8

“My mom talks to God when we need more money.” – Manny 6

Emerson, age 12, asks whether really is a God. Uma 12, says “God lives wherever you imagine.”


Do you talk with the children in your life about God? There are many questions to be asked to open the conversation. Who is God? What do you see when you think about God? Where does God live? And so many more. You’ll likely find that sometimes we tell kids about God, but other times, the child becomes our teacher, reminding us of truths we’ve forgotten. Sometimes, the questions lead to more questions, allowing for relationship building.


Reading the bible together in a version they will understand, you might learn more by asking, “How was the child David able to beat the giant warrior Goliath?” “Why do you think Jesus so enjoyed spending time with children?”  “What does it means when it says, God so loved the world?” “Why do you think Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”


We would also do well to ask ourselves what our words and actions tell children about God. Do they hear you pray? Do they see you applying his Word to your everyday life? What language and temperment are they picking up?  What people see when we’re angry or hurt tells a lot about what we think about God. There’s much to gained and given in mutually beneficial relationships with children. It offers you to be both the teacher and the student. Oh, and that story about Jesus and the children? It wasn’t only to show us how valuable they are, but to also demonstrate our need to slow down and enjoy these young treasures while sharing our God given wisdom with them. If we don’t talk to the kids in our life about God someone else will. And what do you think they might teach them?



How important is prayer?


We received a wonderful Skype video call yesterday from dear friends in Australia. They took us under their wing when we lived in a little cottage across the road from them in Burradoo, New South Wales decades ago.  Over the years and over nearly ten thousand miles our friendship has always grown closer. Each time we get together, we seem to pick up right where we left off, like when they hosted us at their lovely home in 2009 and when they visited us just last summer. How thankful we are they came when my health was still reasonably good! True friends like that are rare.


As they shared the testimonies they saw coming from our journey through cancer we asked them about their own testimonies. Colin shared  about a time decades ago when he traveled internationally for his company. His business called him to Vietnam, which at that time didn’t allow bringing bibles into the country. Of course he brought his and, often being forgetful, left it at the guest house where he was staying.  (Accidents happen, you know.) Anyway, twenty years after leaving the bible, the house host contacted him to say she found something he left but wasn’t going to give back to him. She not only read the bible but joined a bible study group and became a Christian. Twenty years is a long time to wait for the answer to prayer. But it’s worth it!


Then they recalled an incident just a month or so ago when he found his wife Carol on the floor with an extremely high heart rate. Once at the ER, the doctors were able to lower it, but not nearly low enough to be out of the danger zone. Colin said, “I think we need to pray about this.” In less than a minute from beginning his prayer, they heard tones from the machine indicating that her pulse was at normal rate. The nurse who was witness to this called the doctor to come into the room. The doctor came into the room at once and asked what had happened. Colin said he prayed over the situation and immediately she was healed. They asked what they should do if this ever happened again and the stunned doctor said, “I think you should pray!”


It remains a mystery why God answers some prayers instantly according to our exact request and why sometime he tarries for twenty years or more. And even why we sometime feel our prayers go seemingly unanswered. It’s a mystery to us because we see dimly but not to God who sees us with perfectly clear vision, who hears our cries and never ever leaves our side.


Our job isn’t to figure things out but to remain faithful, to keep hope and trust in the Lord. David asked himself: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him For the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5 ASV


Whatever ails or perplexes you, whatever sets you on edge and casts you into despair, you can bring your honest prayer to Almighty God and end with, “for I will yet praise you, my Lord, my God in whom I trust.”


Your prayer, when given with thanksgiving, may be the most powerful force on earth as it draws you closer to your creator and brings you unspeakable peace. It all begins with, “And yet…”


Where do you spend your day?


When Marcia and I were courting, she went to school at UNI and I went to school at the U of I. On weekends, I would find whatever means possible to get to Cedar Falls just to be with her. We were, and still are, heads over heels in love and value time together. One day together was better than all the others combined.


Maybe you feel the same way about vacations or weekends. You work all week so you can enjoy two days of leisure. Or you plan for months, saving money all year so you could go on a treasured vacation. Compared to the pile of time working and money spent, the vacation was worth it. I’m sure you can think of other “trade offs” you intentionally make in your life: time with kids rather than time spent in front of the TV, living simply so you have money to invest in others.


But what about God?


“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10


You might recognize this verse from a popular worship song. It reflects the eternal truth that nothing compares to knowing God and being known by him. As we sing we’re affirming that we would trade a thousand days elsewhere for just one day with him. But is it evidenced in our lives?


I’m humbled to say that many of my trade offs demonstrate I’d rather be elsewhere. When well, I have time to check the news and emails, time to tackle items on a to-do list, time for relaxation, time to write this blog. But where does God fit in? Yesterday, Marcia and I observed that in this crazy world of hospital living, our days are filled to the brim with medical treatments, tests, daily consultation with specialists, physical exercises, and needed rest periods. We find time to handle the bills and do some work for Go Light Our World. But missing was the quality daily devotion time together to study and discuss God’s Word, seeking his presence and guidance for our lives.


Don’t get me wrong we all have to-do it’s to tend to, work to be done, bills to be paid, and families to enjoy. The question isn’t what we do, it’s how we set our priorities. What (or who) comes first?


You might be familiar with the challenge of the jar and the stones. An empty jar is presented along with a quantity of sand, pebbles, large stones and water. The challenge is to fit them all in. Start with the water or small stones and there won’t be room for the larger rocks. Only if you start with the big rocks first, then add the pebbles – constantly shaking the jar- then the sand and finally the water will you get the task done.


Life is like that. We need to handle the big rocks/priorities first. Think about it: 15 minutes filling your heart and mind with God’s truth and goodness versus 1000 minutes listening to our own emotions that so often misguide us. We have to decide what are the big rock priorities that simply must be tended to first so that we have room for the other important things. If it is our desire to spend 15 minutes alone with God more than 1000 minutes doing other things and listening to other voices, then it is worth putting this “big rock” in first. I know Marcia and I are making some adjustments in where we spend our days. How about you?


The power of remembering


With the annual Thanksgiving holiday soon upon us, many are making preparations for reunions with friends and family. No one will go away from the table hungry and everyone will join in on telling stories from former days. A young staff at the hospital shared with me how excited she was to see her grandmother. We talked about the value of capturing her stories on paper or video recording.


Why do you think remembering is so important?


We remember to learn from past mistakes so we can avoid making them again. We share memories with children and grandchildren to give them perspective that may help them in their own lives. We also recall memories to help us gain perspective and appreciation in our own lives. Whenever I recall how loving my grandmother was it spurs me on to be more loving. When we face a problem that seems insurmountable or unending, memories of getting through former struggles helps us see our problems in view of a larger picture. I was frustrated today because my walking was not as good as the previous two days. More pain. Less gain.  Marcia reminded me of how much progress I’ve made in one month. I had forgotten and needed reminding so I could find needed encouragement.


I appreciated seeing a memory display box in a friend’s house that contained scraps of things from their past. Each item was a remembrance of a time when God answered prayer. I wonder how each of our lives would be positively impacted if we would take time each day to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. The devil doesn’t have to get you to hate God. He succeeds if he keeps you so busy you forget God most of your day. Often in the Old Testament we read God’s reminder to us, “Remember I AM the Lord your God.”


I hope you take time often to remember. Let bad memories fly by except to take a lesson from them. Let good memories fill you with a special joy, renew your sense of hope, and speak to you about how you will carry and pass on that memory in your own life. And don’t forget that today is a day for making good memories. Find something to celebrate, however small, and capture that in your memory box to remind you of simple joys in times of trouble.


What will never ever fail you – your true north


Stay true to your moral compass, your true north.


When I was young, it was common for boys to own a compass. We were taught important life skills, including how to find your way if you were lost. A compass was the essential tool for such a task. Why? Because, regardless of your environment, the presence of darkness, or even storms, your compass was your faithful directional guide, the one on which you could always depend. When all your senses served only to disorient you, your compass pointed north. Wouldn’t you like to have such a compass to help you navigate the difficult paths of life you come across?


In business and leadership, true north is a phrase used to represent your unchanging goal and the ethics and values that will always safely and surely lead you there. It’s what we need in our lives too. Societal norms change. History is rewritten. If you hear a lie often enough it starts to seem like the truth.  But the truth never changes. It always is constant, ready to guide us when we are lost, when we need to find our way in the dark.


God’s Word is that true north. It reminds us to stay with the truth and find grace and strength so we can stand firm when the ground shakes beneath us. Faith, love, and mercy secure our footing when everything else crumbles around us. (1 Timothy 1:12-16)


This is our true north, our moral compass. Our true north keeps us from wandering away and turning to meaningless talk that entertains our senses and tickles our ears but fails to fill our lives with anything meaningful. True north keeps our conscience clear; it keeps us on the path of a sincere faith. It leads us to build others up, not tear them down. Our true north tells us when to speak up for an important cause and when to keep our mouths closed, reminding us we don’t always need to fill the air with intelligent sounds. Our true north takes us along a path filled with others who are looking for direction. It shows us how to walk a straight path in a crooked world.


You know you want to be a good example, to pass on life values to your children and those who share your path. Your true north teaches you to demonstrate mercy in the face of injustice and endless patience when you are tested by the most oppressing forces in your life. It’s a beacon that not only points you where to go but shines for others to see also.


Paul reminds us that rejecting the truth shipwrecks our faith. Rejecting the truth and believing the lies of an “easy” life leads us on a dangerous path away from God. Oh, the sights along the way are entertaining and fascinating. In fact, we’re drawn in to every empty activity not realizing how our life is wasted in such vain pursuits. I’ve wasted more time and energy on meaningless pursuits in my life than I care to admit. Maybe you have too. Maybe today is the day to take your compass in hand and reset the course of your life.


If rejecting the truth shipwrecks our faith, then God’s Word is the compass that leads us to safe harbor. Hold on to the faith and a good conscience. Hold on to the truth today. Live well.