Thursday, July 31, 2008


Please be encouraged to vote in the poll at top left - referring to the late July blogs.

Today I had lunch at a local restaurant called, "Thai Gourmet." I had eaten there before but this time was different.

I went with Missionary-to-Thailand David Kniesz. He has struck up a friendship with the owners of the restaurant, particularly since the patriarch of the restaurant is originally from the very Lao village where David has most recently put up a school to teach Lao children. So there is quite a connection between the two.

They treated us like kings - serving us delicious Thai appetizers and main dishes and would have given us more had we asked or wanted them.

What impressed me more was how lovely these people are ... and underscored for me the important necessity of our future inner-connectedness ... the crucial-ness of finding common ground across different cultures. Surely that will become more and more a dominant theme over the next decades.

Inevitably, that must change the way churches relate the Gospel to others ... and how we as individuals respond to our neighbors. You'll have to be able to give a rational, calm answer for your faith - perhaps to an atheist - or a Buddhist - or a Hindu - or a Mormon - or a Scientologist - and the WAY in which we communicate will have to be clearer and simpler than ever. Extremely complex theology running out of our mouths will not work.

AND ... more and more ... we will have to UNDERSTAND these diverse faiths. Every religion has seeds of truth planted there, but we should perhaps know what those seeds are so we can relate them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

THAT means us taking on the role of 'humble servants and students willing to learn from the rest of the world." That may be the biggest challenge of all.

Are you up for it?

And be blessed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Please be encouraged to vote in the poll at top left - referring to the late July blogs.

When you are authoring a blog on an almost daily basis, you are thankful for the most random things that happen so you can turn around and have something useful to say to your adoring fans.

And today, RANDOM took on a whole new meaning. Let me start with this …

You may think the Hula Hoop was a fad born in the 1950’s, but people were doing the same kind of thing with circular hoops made from grape vines and stiff grasses all over the ancient world. The toy was propelled along the ground with a stick or swung around at the waist. During the fourteenth century, a "hooping" craze swept England, and was as popular among adults as kids. The records of doctors at the time attribute numerous dislocated backs and heart attacks to "hooping." The word hula became associated with the toy in the early 1800's when British sailors visited the Hawaiian Islands and noted the similarity between "hooping" and hula dancing. In 1957, an Australian company began making wood rings for sale in retail stores. The item attracted the attention of Wham-O, a fledgling California toy manufacturer. They manufactured a plastic hoop in a variety of bright colors and gave demonstrations along with free hoops to get children to learn and play. Their perseverance turned the hula hoop into one of the greatest fads the country has ever seen. Twenty-five million were sold in four months! It died out in the 1960’s, but guess what? THEY’RE BACK!!!

So what, you ask? Well, today I’m at one of Kenosha’s finer establishments buying some product for an evening meeting – and on my way in there is a person standing there with a hula hoop around her waist, asking people if they would like to join her in hula hooping - right there outside the store - in front of God and everybody. I smiled to myself at all the ‘non-takers’ passing by.

I couldn’t get it out of my head the whole time I was in the store and I wondered if she would be there when I came out. She was.

I wondered if I could get past her while she was looking the other direction. I couldn’t.

I wondered if I would be able to avoid eye contact with her so she wouldn’t talk to me. I didn’t.

I wondered if she would actually have the audacity to ask a tall, reserved fellow like me to join her in hula hooping. She did.

I wondered if there was anyone walking in or out of the store whom I knew. There wasn’t.

I looked again just to make sure. And a third and fourth time. Still nobody.

Suffice to say … this would not be the kind of thing that – say – 5 or 10 years ago, I would have done. But as I get ‘less young,’ I am coming to realize we do not take advantage of the fun things in life nearly enough. And I have never had a blog where I needed fodder to write about every day.

And so --- well --- did I or didn’t I? I’ll never tell --- except to say --- my hips are sore.

And be blessed.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Pleae be encouraged to take the poll at top left - based on the July 23-26 blogs.

Today in church we talked about Jehovah-Shalom, God of our Peace from Judges 6:24.

There are two common misconceptions about peace … one is that peace is the absence of conflict … the other is that peace equals silence. Neither are true.

The Jew understands what a person is saying when he says ‘shalom.’ He’s not saying, ‘May you have no trouble in your life.’ He's not saying, 'May there be quiet and silence in your life.' He's saying, 'May you be WHOLE and COMPLETE ... CONTENT and SATISFIED with God.'

And that is the truth of real peace. It isn't the absence of conflict or noise or problems; it’s having God while you’re experiencing conflict and noise and problems – it’s WHOLENESS with God.

Real shalom isn’t experienced by every person who calls himself a believer. Scores of regular churchgoers do not have shalom. Many followers of Christ have only experienced short seasons of shalom in between lengthy seasons of distress. We cannot receive the gift of shalom until we have come face-to-face with God in some way.

Christ didn't come for your salvation alone. He came for exceeding, abundant, above and beyond living from you. The goal isn’t simply not to sin and make it to heaven one of these days. The goal is about becoming more and more the kind of person God had in mind when He made us in the first place … people of ‘shalom’ … people of completeness … people of wholeness … people of peace.”

Jesus said: “(SHALOM) Peace I leave with you; My (SHALOM) peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Be at peace.
And be blessed.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Sam Chand and Len Sweet mention immigrants and natives in some of their writings. Here is a final installment - for now - of my conversation about that with you.

Probably as a NATIVE myself, (there, I said it), I was taught that leaders are always in control. As a leader now myself, I have a tendency to be a 'control freak' (there, I said it). I hate the term, but it's a part of most strong leaders' tendencies. Although I don't think I've ever actually admitted to having the need to control or dominate - until now, that is - the need seemed nonetheless real.

As a pastor - whether consciously or sub-consciously - I believed I was the center of the local church universe (there, I said it). I was responsible for keeping everything moving in the right direction - translate 'RIGHT DIRECTION' as MY way of doing things.

I finally realized I didn't need to control every action and outcome. Part of my growth has been learning to trust others - depend on others - empower others. At one point I might have said "ALLOWING OTHERS' to express their giftings, indicating I still held control as the 'permission giver.'

At some point, this native had to deeply evaluate his own feelings about some of the changes that were going on all over:
'It won't be the same around here.'
'I used to know everyone by name.'
'I used to like the music we had. Why do we have to keep adding songs nobody can sing.'
'What's wrong with the way we used to do it?'

And in the final analysis I had to ask myself this final question: 'What am I doing that prevents our ministry from moving forward?' It's a question that a good immigrant would ask.

So -- which are you? IMMIGRANT or NATIVE? Read back starting with Tuesday, July 23rd, if you'd like. But let us know which you are in the poll at left. And remember, NEITHER IS BAD.

And be blessed.

Friday, July 25, 2008


This blog is a continuation from three days ago. Please be strongly encouraged to enter the discussion by posting a comment on these last three day's blogs. Thanks.

Activity used to drive our thinking. We used to say, “We’re having backyard Bible clubs all summer.” That’s an activity and the clubs were effective – in 1980.

That style of thinking has changed somewhat. If a native says, “We’re going to have backyard Bible clubs this summer,” an immigrant says, “Why?”

A befuddled native sees this as opposition or resistance.

The immigrant might then say, “Why in the Campbell’s backyard? Why not at the Smith’s down the street? What’s so strategic about the Campbell’s place?”

After the native answers that question, the immigrant might ask: “What are we going to do with the clubs in order to follow up?”

Today’s immigrants are saying, “We can no longer be an event-oriented society; we need to move toward being a system-oriented society.” An event begins and ends, while a system focuses on the means to get there as well as what happens next - STEPS to get somewhere.

A native might say, “Here we are! Come be part of us. Find out what we believe. It's awesome!” Or, “How can we help? There are so many homeless; let’s start a new homeless shelter.” An immigrant might say, “Why should we start that ministry when there’s already a shelter downtown? How can we resource THEM? Why should we start a home for unwed mothers? Let’s find out who’s already providing that service and then figure out how we can enhance their efforts.”

A native: “What can we do?”
An immigrant: “What can we do thru others?”

So which are you: IMMIGRANT or NATIVE? And remember, NEITHER IS BAD.

A poll will follow this series of blogs – come back for that – where you can tell us whether you are an immigrant or a native. And remember -- NEITHER IS BAD.

And be blessed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


This blog on IMMIGRANTS and NATIVES continues from yesterday based on some of Sam Chand and Len Sweet's writings. Please be encouraged to enter the discussion by posting a comment at the bottom of this blog.

It's been very interesting watching my daughters do their homework over the years. When I did mine at home way back when, I had little interference from the radio, TV or tape player (yes, it was a TAPE player). Most of us sat a table after dinner and worked until we were done.

But my KIDS!? They can have the TV blaring, be texting a friend on the phone, looking at Facebook with the iPod screaming in their ears - all while they're doing their homework. It's multi-tasking elevated to an art form.

It is natives vs. immigrants.

My generation? Permanence and stability were very important to us. Today? Those two things are hardly possible - not to mention even desired.

My generation readily accepted authority. Today? Eyebrows are raised to once-accepted messages.

My generation? Print ruled. If we read something in a newspaper, magazine or book, it was unquestionable truth. Today? TV and movies are truth.

Natives vs. immigrants.

In a church setting, when we ask the natives the WHY question, they sometimes resent the question itself or seem to think the question is an automatic criticism. To an immigrant, WHY is a reasonable thing - even an expected thing - because he or she has been taught to raise issues on purpose. Immigrants were taught to be a questioning people - natives were taught to be an answering people.

So which do you think you are ... an immigrant or a native? And remember, NEITHER IS BAD. (At the conclusion of this series of blogs, there will be a poll for you to tell if you think you're an immigrant or a native. And remember ... NEITHER IS BAD.)

And be blessed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


For the next few days I'm going to be talking about Immigrants and Natives. Not the kind of immigrant and native you're thinking of ... but the kind we have in church. (Please feel encouraged to make a comment over the next several days on this topic. You can view all comments after they are confirmed by clicking the "comment" link at the bottom of each day's blog.)

Sam Chand and Len Sweet talk about IMMIGRANTS and NATIVES. In churches all across America, we make pronouncements with authority - sort of like the Pope. As leaders, we know what we're saying and doing, and we know why. What we don't grasp is that those who are listening to our message have a different outlook and divergent values - and the message we SEND is often not the message they RECEIVE.

We can understand this better if we think in terms of "Immigrant" or "Native." Ask yourself over the next few days: "Am I an Immigrant or a Native?" (At the end of this series of blogs, we'll have a poll where you can identify which you think you are. NEITHER IS BAD.)

Natives - as the term implies - are those who have been in the church - particularly in ONE church - for quite some time. They have been there long enough to know the congregational history and speak about the hardships and victories of building the church to what it is today.

Someone said that anyone who is forty years old and/or has been in the church for at least ten years is a native. That isn't quite literal, but just a guideline. I know some 78 year olds who think like 28 year olds - and vice versa.

Immigrants, by contrast, come into a church and try to understand the language of a congregation, which is often like a foreign dialect to them. To fit in, they must tread carefully until they learn the sacred words and symbols.

The two groups can be generally characterized this way (and remember, we said NEITHER IS BAD):
Natives are: slower deciders, thinking thru change for awhile before moving with it, linear thinkers, fighters against chaos/instability, formal learners, book sponges.
Immigrants are: faster deciders, leaders of change, circular thinkers, promote chaos/unstability, learn by doing, TV and media sponges.

Which do you think you are SO FAR? To be continued ...

And be blessed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I love teamwork. I hate competitiveness that leans toward selfishness and superiority. Who actually LIKES that?

Tom Paterson says, "If I have one good idea and YOU have one good idea, how many ideas does each of us have?" ONE. Now, if I share my idea with you and you share yours with me, how many does each one now have? TWO."

That's just simple math. Get it?

"We have immediately doubled our knowledge. Did you lose your own idea? No. But by sharing, you have increased your knowledge 100%." When we stop learning, we just stop.

You never dim the light of your own candle by lighting that of another.

I am hoping that we always remain learners - and teachers - and sharers - and lighters of candles.
And be blessed.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


This afternoon we hosted the G.U.T.S. (Giving Up To Serve) Motorcycle Rally at our church. The picnic on the lawn with vendors selling food was awesome. Besides the regular fare, it included ears of corn, sno cones, cotton candy, funnel cakes and ice cream.

There was this AMAZING stunt motorcyclist set up in one corner of the parking lot - who rode his bike up and down steep ramps, did balancing tricks and generally scared the dickens out of the crowd - particularly when he had a student lay down on the ground and then proceed to jump over him both width-ways and length-ways. I was real glad both the motorcyclist AND the kid-on-the-ground's parents had insurance.

Over in the other corner of the parking lot was REGULAR JO, the country band. I listened to them up-close-and-personal for a few minutes and then rest of the time from a distance. They sounded great.

There was also face painting, air-house jumpers, balloon animals - the works. What a great day.

The front parking lot was reserved for motorcycles ONLY all day today. If you came on more than 3 wheels, you had to park in one of the other lots. There were over a hundred twenty-five motorcycles parked out front at one time during the morning. A majority of those riding bikes were not from our church. Very cool.

The day was capped by a tribute to our military complete with Color Guard, The National Anthem, TAPS, a moment of silence and honors to both fallen and past & present military. We were able to bless the American Legion with nearly $2,000 given by the bikers for the unmet needs of currently deployed servicemen.

Finally, 40 of us rode in a motorcycle caravan to Kettle Moraine State Park - about and hour Northwest of Kenosha. That was a blast. Joelene, my 'motorcycle mama,' and me - were on a Harley Davidson Ultra like this one - and we rode up at the #2 spot in the caravan - a FUN spot to be. It was a memorable day.

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard on the G.U.T.S. rally - in particular, the IRONMEN CORE TEAM of our church and my administrative assistant, Sylvia - plus scores of other volunteers. You guys are 'da bomb.'

And be blessed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Since this blog is officially called, "A Day in the Life," the entry today is just that ... what I did today. Maybe that sounds real dull to you, I don't know, but it's all I got.

We are preparing for the wedding of our middle-born daughter and her fiance, Allison and Darren, in our side yard in September. There is a wedding shower for her in the same location a week from today. She'll be coming home from Minneapolis with her older sister, Whitney, this coming week - so we're real excited to see them both. We don't see them enough for our comfort.
So today, Joelene and I were 'up and at 'em,' involving ourselves in activities at the house all day long - most of which revolve directly or indirectly around the upcoming shower and nuptials.

Here's how A DAY IN THE LIFE went today ...
*Breakfast - an egg thingie that Joelene made - with bacon, melon, muffins and juice/milk
*To the bank - yes, as "Father of the Bride," this activity was DIRECTLY related to shower and wedding activities - and then to Steins and Menards for grass seed and straw.
*Staking out by the driveway
*Spreading of dirt and grass seed in areas where we had some landscaping done (in prep for the upcoming wedding)
*Covering of grass seed with straw
*Water sealant applied to swing that we're planning to hang between trees in the yard (for potential wedding pictures)
*To Steins and Menards for more grass seed, straw and a wheelbarrow wheel (it's flat)
*More spreading of grass seed
*More spreading of straw
*Application of new wheelbarrow wheel
*Round-up-ing of weeds
*Back to Steins because SOMEONE didn't get enough straw to finish the job - (I shouldn't have gone back that third time because I also came back with a wrought iron arbor for our back entrance)
*More spreading of straw
*Lawn watering
Is it lunch yet?
*Weed whacking
*Removal of gaudy blue bench out to the street (where hopefully some poor, unfortunate soul driving innocently by will covet it and take it - "IT'S FREE!")
*Hung several bird houses and chimes all around the yard
*Varied mosquito testing activities in the yard - fogging, spraying, lighting candles and torches, swatting, etc.
*Rearrangement of garage items
*Brought fans outside to blow those little suckers to the moon
*Construction of the wrought iron arbor
*Placement of the wrought iron arbor
*Paused for a quick supper on the patio with Joelene
*Placement of the a.m. water-sealed swing
*Blew air into an air mattress for our shower/wedding company to sleep on downstairs
*Stood back and admired our work
*Showered - trust me ... badly needed.
*Blogged (even this is related to the shower and wedding)
So -- if Allison and Darren are listening - because I know sometimes they DO read this blog -- YOU GUYS ARE WORTH IT!


*Going to bed now.

And be blessed.

Friday, July 18, 2008


This blog comes completely out of nowhere. I was communicating via e-mail with a friend today about some serious issues that had the potential of making us both rabid - and I said I didn't want to have a 'conniption' over what we were talking about. That was such a weird word for me to use. You don't hear it much these days - but somewhere in the cobwebby recesses of my brain, it was sitting there just within reach.

I wasn't sure I'd even used it correctly, so just to make sure, I looked it up - because if anything, I hate to be verbally inaccurate. And sure enough, it meant what I THOUGHT it meant ... CONNIPTION (or CONIPTION) is "a sudden, violent emotional outburst generally triggered by shocking news or by an unexpected, unwanted turn of events."

For instance, assume for a moment that you decided to tell your parents about your plans to ditch college and join the circus. The NEXT event you witness should qualify as a conniption.

Or maybe it's a tantrum. A tantrum would be an immature response to some incredibly bad or disappointing news, accompanied by signs of great frustration, rage and most likely, VOLUME.

It could qualify as a tirade ... a prolonged spewing of bitter, outspoken denuncation.

Or a diatribe, which would describe a bitter attack or criticsm, including potential incomprehensible epithets and immature actions.

But I hope to NEVER be characterized as a person modeling any of those qualities. Rather, my goal is to be a person who Biblically turns away wrath by giving soft answers back - by living at peace with my brother and sister, so far as it is humanly possible - by making sure wholesome communication comes from my mouth and that my walk is worthy of the calling to which God has called me - to be a person whose conversation is peppered with salt and with grace. And we sure do need God's help for all of that.

But I'm going to have to stop now because it's late and time for me to get to bed. And if my milk and Oreos aren't waiting for me, I might end up having a hissy fit.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I know I talk about this kind of stuff a lot, but it is on my heart a lot and in my head a lot. And as I try to learn via people smarter than me, which is almost EVERYONE, I find my heart beating just a little faster when I read certain things. Like about 'futuring.'

Recently I was reading something by a man named Cecil Murphey, who started his journey in his twenties after spotting a book in the window of a Waukegan, Illinois used bookstore. The book was "Magnificent Obsession" by Lloyd Douglas. From there, his journey took him to the U.S. Navy, public school teacher, missionary to Kenya, Columbia seminary, pastoring in Georgia, and eventually writing full time.

And when I write this kind of thing, I don't write it to raise any hackles or be controversial at all. It is quite simply how my heart is beating - and what I believe. If it is edgy, it is not the intention.

Murphey reminds us that we're asking questions people haven't asked before. Not til now.
Twenty-five years ago, how many churches acknowledged that some marriages between believers didn't last 'until death us do part?'

In your grandma's church, how many members seriously debated issues such as euthanasia and homosexuality?

A generation ago, how many churched people expressed real concern about the environment or questioned whether there would be enough fuel for our grandchildren's generation?

Society has changed; we have lost the stability our parents enjoyed and took for granted. Studies indicate that most people with college degrees aren't working in the field of their educational major. People used to go to work for a company, stay with that company forty years and retire with a watch and a good-bye party.

However, one research study predicts most people in this country today will hold at least seven different jobs. The editors of The New Millenial project that those who enter the job market after 2020 will change jobs ... EVERY ... YEAR.

What does all of that mean to me - or to you - or to the church? Just this. That despite all the changes, basic human needs have not changed. People still hurt. They need to know they are loved and especially that God loves them and wants to have fellowship with them. Sunday school teachers no longer focus on what David did with the four unused stones when he slew Goliath. Now, they teach about the role of prayer in coping with major stress or how to have real inner peace when the company downsizes.

And forty-five minute messages? I'm less sure these days. SOME people are doing that - and with relative success. But the remotes are out there clicking away, tuning us out probably before we've reached the 20-minute mark. So ... FUTURING must be done as the church moves forward by finding new ways of presenting the old story - before we're tuned out by the mental remotes - or worse - declared obsolete by the culture.

Pray for us.

And be blessed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I am part of a team of people who creatively plan ‘transcendent moments’ for our weekend services. During that process, I am always fascinated that one of the most difficult things to do, even with all those creative brains, is to label things – series titles, message titles, things that need ‘branded,’ etc.

In our church culture, it is challenging to name everything – and it seems that everything NEEDS a name ... the Senior Adult group (they finally became “ENCORE” at our church), singing groups (a group of eight is called “One Way”), men's group ("IRONMEN"). And those are all FINE and GOOD!

And then … I look at the creative, out-of-the-box descriptions the world puts together in names given to rock bands and the like. Here are twenty of my personal favorite band names in no particular order:
Flaming Box of Ants
Abstract Evil Barbie
My Friend Kevin
Yak Buckets
Arthur Loves Plastic
Bloated Tick
The Electro Magnetic Flowerseed
Half Man, Half Biscuit
Jehovah’s Waitresses
Rule 62
Sack Lunch
Viola Crayola
Don’t Call Me Francis
Willy Nelson Mandela
Cowboy Mouth
Your Mom
In My Skin
Furniture Falling Down the Stairs

I’m not making those up! Creative, huh?
Here’s why I bring that up … because creativity is the heartbeat of God. The world has it coming out every pore. But the church should be the most creative out-of-the-box organization on earth … the very best and most excellent we can be for the Gospel and the Kingdom. After all, creativity originated with God. It is the fifth word in the entire Bible … “In the beginning God CREATED … “

Look around for ninety seconds. You see God’s creativity in every plant, every animal, every human. And Jesus. Wasn’t He the most creative leader and teacher who ever lived? Answer: Yes. AND … seventy-two percent of Jesus’ words recorded in the Gospels were based on application. He understood 2,000 years ago that we are visual learners. Remember His teachings? “Look at the birds!” “Look at the flowers!” He even pulled a coin out of a fish’s mouth. That’s why on recent weekends I have communicated via a piece of dyed cloth, a fan, a huge tree limb, a ladder, chairs, a whiteboard, a flannelgraph and a swatch of fabric.
Pastor Ed Young talks about visiting Las Vegas and being amazed at the outrageous creativity present. He said: “The people in Vegas don’t have very much to say but they sure know how to say it!”

The church’s problem is just the opposite: “We have everything to say but we don’t know how to say itbut churches that are committed to creatively doing whatever it takes to reach a lost world will raise their share of critics, but they will also turn people into passionate pursuers of Christ!”
The higher the predictability, the lower the learning. Let’s ask God to enhance our creativity – for the sake of a world that needs to hear it so they can understand it.

And be blessed.


This past weekend we had the young single adult group (“FUSION”) from our church to our home for a night of fun. This is a great group of young men and women led by Pastor Jason and Becky Held.

We had an awesome time talking, laughing, sitting on the patio, eating hot dogs and playing Wii and board games.

There are some gifted, talented, funny, deep, entertaining and sold-out-to-God young adults around. So great to see.

Thanks for the great time, gang.

And be blessed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


This is a follow-up to Thursday's blog. To get the full impact, please read that NOW. Thank you.

The ONE sport I managed to excel at in high school was ping pong. That’s right. Go ahead and cackle. I can hear you thru the internet waves right now. But it was my claim-to-fame in a world of junior high competitive testosterone. I was pretty good, too.

Here's how it worked. All our names were put on a tote board numbered 1 to 75. It was a BIG class but our school owned eight ping pong tables. They started us in alphabetical order, which put me at about #68 on the first day. It was up to each boy to work his way up (or down) the tote board based on table tennis wins. You win, you switch places with the person you challenged. Simple as that. After a couple of weeks of playing one another, the tote board quickly began to take shape, with the better players taking the lowest numbers.

Some boys went right for the jugular. For instance, on the very first day, #71 challenged #2, trying to hop on the fast-track to victory. But unlike those with that kind of raw courage, I opted to start off slow - afraid to challenge people too high up, truly lacking confidence to take anything more than baby steps. So I, at #68 challenged #64. I won. Then I (#64) challenged #57. I won. Then I (#57) challenged #50. I won.

But really – deep inside – I was just waiting for someone to come from behind and cut me off at the knees and send me to the basement of the standings -- but it never happened. With my extra long arms – a good sense of hand-eye coordination – more defensive playing than offensive, I made my slow ascent. No matter where or how hard hit from the other end of the table, I nearly always managed to return the ball. The law of averages worked in my favor. At some point, the other player was going to either miss the ball, hit it into the net or smack it way off my end of the table. And they did.

Then one day, something crazy happened. I (#50) challenged #39. Unfortunately for him, #39 ended up having to suddenly go to the doctor’s – and I had no one to play. The coach said, “Go play that kid over there.”

I looked. “Oh, no.” ‘That kid over there’ just happened to be #5. Just what I needed. Full-on humiliation. I cringed – I sweat – I shook – and I returned every ball. Sooner or later, he succumbed to my mega-defensive ball returns. Before I knew it, I was the new #5. Now, with only four people above me and it being illegal to officially challenge anybody beneath you, I had no choice.

I played #4 – no reason to be greedy. I won. I played #3. I won. I played #2. I won. This had NEVER happened to me before – EVER. I was suddenly being looked at in new ways. They were respecting – revering – even FEARING me. So this is how the other half lived. I loved this.

By now, it was near the end of the season. There was only one place left to go. Number one. The second-to-last day of the year, it was time. It was a hard fought game. I was a defense monster. Slams from #1 were being miraculously returned. Shots way at the edges of the table were given back courtesy of my eight-foot wing span. It was a masterful display of ping-pong after the fashion of Chen Weixing (look it up). I would be King of the Campus – or at least King of the Gymnasium Basement.

Well – he beat me. That’s right. I lost. And on that last day of the tournament, my name was etched in history - at NUMBER TWO. I got a little trophy and was crowned the SECOND BEST PING PONG player in my school.

It’s the LAST time I’ve won anything quite like that. I’ll never forget it.

By the way, "GNOP GNIP," the title of this blog, is "PING PONG" spelled backwards. Just a little serendipity.

And be blessed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I was reading a little Nate Larkin today and he describes something in his life that was so reminiscent of my own that I couldn't resist sharing it ...

I've never been very athletic. I don't know why. I'm lean and tall and both my arms and legs can operate completely independent of one another a-la playing the piano or organ - my eye-hand coordination is just fine - I'm in decent shape and have the energy to keep up with the best of them - but I've never gotten the knack of various sports.

When I was a kid, I had to wrestle in gym class. I was 13 years old, skinny-as-a-rail and they matched me with some 14-year old brickhouse that was nine inches shorter than me and weighed ten pounds MORE than me with his whole body covered in muscle. He threw me down in no time in some kind of pretzel Full-Nelson hold before I cried, "Uncle."

I opted for an in-school gymnastics-type class. I don't know what ANY of us were thinking. I was the only kid there over 6'0" tall and upon trying to do a handstand, I promptly ended up with one knee going right thru my glasses.

Move to rope climbing. There I hung, desperately clutching the rope with my feet only eight inches off the floor while the rest of the kids were scaling the rope all the way to the ceiling in 7.2 seconds. I couldn't move an inch.

Every kid played softball. No exceptions. Just like Nate Larkin, the coach looked me over and said, "Right field." "Where's right field?" I said. I finally found it. Then, in the very first game, I heard the dreaded "CRACK!" of the bat and watched the ball rise in the air - higher and higher - coming my direction.

I stood there hypnotized. "I should probably think about catching this thing," I thought. "If I don't raise my glove, the ball is probably going to hit me ... ... ... ... ... ... Yeah, it's going to hit me ... It's definitely going to hit me ... ... ... ... ... ... This is probably going to hur--" And then the ball hit me square in the face. After I cleaned up the blood, I gave up my career as the next Heisman Trophy winner. No wait, that's football.

Track, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, swimming, dodgeball, kickball, foursquare, tiddly-winks - none of it worked. Well, ALMOST nothing. (The follow-up blog to this one will be about the ONE THING that DID work, lame as it will probably sound to you. You're on pins-and-needles, aren't you? Tune back in tomorrow.)

But GOD -- He redeems EVERYTHING. There is a song by Ray Boltz called, "The Last to be Chosen." It candidly describes some of those agonizing days out on the gym playground. It is really MY STORY. But it also vividly reveals a bigger picture of what God CAN and WILL do with EVERY PERSON. He will USE YOU ... even when you think you have little or nothing to offer. It is really MY STORY.

And so I offer the lyrics of "The Last to Be Chosen" by Ray Boltz for your inspration, challenge - and perhaps - if you were or are anything like me - your great hope and encouragement:

"Today in the school yard they were choosing up sides,
And one child just stood there with tears in his eyes,
He'd been there before and everyone knew,
He'd be alone when the choosing was through.
But high in the heavens, the Father looked down,
And He saw what happened there on the ground,
And angels rejoiced when He said to His Son,
'Watch what I do with this one.'

The last to be chosen are the first He will call,
And what He does through them will amaze one and all,
It won't be the hero that carries the ball,
The last to be chosen are the first He will call."

Amen. And be blessed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I have this CAR. I know, as a pastor, I shouldn't be driving around in something with 'nothing but three letters for a name' -- something so hoity-toity, as some describe it, but it's my only vice ... and it's ten years old -- and it has 100,000 miles on it -- and it's in the shop half the time. So ...

Anyway ... the other day -- (and this is SO the story of my life that I could write a 40 chapter book on stuff like this that happens to me) --- I'm getting in it and "CLUNK!" - the door handle comes off right in my hand. The metal part snaps right in two. I looked down and couldn't believe my eyes. I was HOLDING my door handle in my palm. So I had no way to get in other than to crawl thru the other side, which I did for two days - with my 6'5" tall legs and all.

Then, I called the repair guy to see when the part was going to be in and while we were talking he mentioned to me that if I just hold down the 'unlock' part of my keyless entry device for five seconds, the windows will all come down automatically on that car.
"So?" I said.
"Well," he said back, "if you put your windows down then you can reach thru your driver's side door and open it from the outside so you won't have to crawl thru from the passenger side, Dork!" (except he didn't say 'dork,' he was just obviously THINKING it).

So I said, "Wow! Great tip. Thanks." (except I didn't really say "WOW!" Apparently, "WOW! is so lame these days, my daughter tells me, so I'm trying to cut that from my vocabulary so I can be more 'cool' or 'rad' or 'phat' or 'whatever.')

That helped me the past couple of days as I reached thru the open window and released the latch from the outside. And then today ... I'm doing the very same entry routine and I reach in to release the door latch and lo and behold, the INSIDE door handle comes off in my hand.

Now I can't get IN or OUT of my fancy hoity-toity without crawling thru the passenger side door, unless I want to do "Dukes of Hazzard" and jump in thru the driver's side window. But I know I'll kill myself. (Refer to paragraph 2, parenthetical sentence, above).
I just thought you might want to know what was going on in 'a day in the life of PK.' I'm not sure WHY, but ...

Be blessed.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Here is a free friend assessment I found while reading a book simply titled, "GOD." Coincidentally, it is also the title of the summer weekend series we're in right now - no connection otherwise.

To gauge the 'freeloading quotient' of your best buds, place an "X" next to any of the phrases below that characterize your friends ...

1. "Are you gonna eat that?"

2. "You know, refills are free here ... so ... you done with your cup?"

3. "You own a truck, right?"

4. "So, what are you doing the last Saturday of this month?" (Numbers 3 and 4 are typically used in tandem.)

5. "Dude, do you mind giving me a ride to the DMV?"

6. "It's nothing permanent. I just need a place to crash for the next couple of days ... I mean weeks ... I mean months."

7. "Do you mind getting this one? I'll pick up the next one."

8. "Would it be cool if I used your iPod for my trans-European backpack trip?"

9. "Yes, I borrowed your jacket without asking ... no, I did not smoke while I was wearing it ... and yes, as far as I know, you can get blood out of anything these days."

10. "Hey, can you hold for just a minute?" (Unspoken: " ... while I take these next six calls from people I like better than you?")

OK - now it's time to judge -- oops! -- I mean RATE your friends. Count '1' point for each characterization above that applies and see below ...

0-3 - You have great friends you can trust with your stuff. Congratulations. Feel free to loan them your weed whacker this weekend.

4-7 - You have some great friends but odds are your weed whacker is ALREADY in one of their garages.

8-10 - Friends? With friends like these ... they no longer have your weed whacker. They just sold it on eBay.

And be blessed.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Today the weekend talk was about one of the Names of God - JEHOVAH-NISSI, the Lord our Banner.

The Name comes from Exodus 17 where the Israelites are fighting those pesky Amalekites - and there is Moses standing up on the hill to their right - they can SEE Him up there. And he's holding this really big stick. According to one translation it is the 'Walking Stick of God!' WOW!

And as long as Moses keeps the 'Walking Stick of God' held high, the Israelite forces are victorious. But whenever the stick begins to sag, the Amalekites begin to win. And Aaron and Hur are there to hold up Moses' arms when they start getting tired.

And it was almost like their winning the battle was directly related to that pole being UP or DOWN and whether they could SEE it or not. That's right. In the same way, your future victory in life is directly related to how closely you can SEE your banner, JEHOVAH-NISSI … because He is your strength ... your power ... your victory.

You are in a war in 2008. Every day of your life, you’re in a great fight. And Amalek represents our enemy, who is active against God's people in EVERY generation. He wants to destroy you and the WORK of God in your life.

He knows when and where you are weak and he won’t hesitate to strike at your most vulnerable point or play unfairly with you. He will attack you when you’re down and weak – he will go after your soft spot – he will hit your Achilles heel with no mercy whatsoever. But GOD wants you to know that HE, Jehovah-Nissi, is your banner – because the battle is coming near when you least expect it.

So … what is your battle right now? Depression? Alcohol? Drugs? Pornography? Bitterness? Loneliness? Cancer? Nicotine? Hopelessness? Relationships? Employment? Threats of bankruptcy or foreclosure on a home? If I haven't named your particular battleground, just fill in the blank. YOU know what you are at war with and YOU know that in the heat of battle it is hard to see the victory. The devil knows that, too.

So, here’s what to DO. Call on Jehovah-Nissi. Raise your hands in prayer the way Moses did. Don't you GIVE UP. Jehovah-Nissi is your banner. And when you’re getting tired – and you WILL – ask someone in your small group to HOLD YOUR HANDS UP FOR YOU - ask them to steady the banner so it doesn't sag - ask them to carry a few of your personal bricks for you. (NOTE: Are you IN a small group?)

Trust Jehovah-Nissi that the outcome of your battle will be the same as it was for Moses and the Israelites - victory. There will always be war; don't be surprised by that. But HE will win the fight for you. Jesus says, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

He is JEHOVAH-NISSI, the Lord your banner.

And be blessed.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Another beautiful day today. An extra day off this week was really appreciated. Thanks, God.

Today's highlight was spending the last several hours of it in Milwaukee at Miller Park in one of the corporate boxes watching the Brewers beat the Pirates 2-1. Great game, including a home run and 9th inning win by the Brewers.

That wasn't the best part though. It was just spending some what-feels-like-rare time these days with friends.

We did a whole lot more eating (and MAN! was there food!) and talking (and MAN! was there talk) than we did watching the Brewers and Pirates ... but at the end of the day, that is what life is about, isn't it? Friends. And so, to each of our friends, 'Thanks.'
And be blessed.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Happy July 4th!! We're celebrating the 232nd birthday of our nation!

Today was a great and fun day. We took the train into downtown Chicago for the TASTE OF CHICAGO. We went with some friends and our youngest daughter & boyfriend. Here we are standing in front of the Buckingham Fountain downtown.

We had a terrific time sampling all kinds of Chicago's finest edible delicacies. This is us munching on 'beignets' (look it up).

For awhile we sat on a hillside in the shade overlooking TASTE OF CHICAGO and just played some cards. Then we got back up and sampled a few more Chicago eats. What a beautifully gorgeous day it was.

Then it was back home for some homemade banana cream pie with our friends -- and finally down to the Kenosha Harbor for the awesome fireworks. That pic at bottom is an actual shot of the Kenosha Harbor display.

It sure gives you a great feeling belonging to a country like the U.S.A. We are thankful. Hope you had a tremendous day as well.

And be blessed.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Let me tell you where my heart really is.

While the Church (that would be you and me, not the building) is trying to reach others for Christ, a lot of other things are going on at the same time. None of them are bad. But as we are endeavoring to keep our head and heart in the world of those who are far from God, we're still thinking about remodeling parts of the church (the building, not you and me) that badly need updating after 15 years ---- we're still strategically planning for the future ---- we're still trying to figure out how to close the back door at Church (the people, not the actual building) ---- we're still discussing issues of worship style and 'propriety' inside the church (the building, not you and me) ---- the everyday requirements of ministry life march on, as they must. All necessary things. All good things. And yet, people far from God walk down my street every day while I watch.

Let me tell you where my heart really is. As pre-believers come thru our doors or talk to us over the backyard fence, some of THIS is going to eventually happen:

"Pastor, I have a friend who is a transvestite. He dresses like a woman and he has had the surgeries that give him the appearance of a woman. But pastor, I've been talking to him and he wants to come to our church. What should I do? Can I bring him?"

What do you SAY? What do YOU say?

I say, "Yes, of course. Bring him. We understand the sin, but where else is a person going to go who wants to find God?"

And that's when we stop having long conversations about the new decorating, the strategic planning, the worship choruses and the programs. They still happen but we really put our energies and hardest thoughts into getting on with the business of seeing changed lives.

So, in the greatest effort and heart to be relevant to a confused world going its own direction, you have to ask:
"What HAPPENS when a person who has a surgically altered gender turns to Christ?"
"How does what we do at a weekend service (or for that matter, Monday thru Saturday) prepare people for that question -- and how does it help those affected with an answer?"
"What role does a message have for a people with such a deep and varied collection of issues, experiences, thoughts, emotions and beliefs?"

Do we have any answers that speak directly? I believe we do, but we have to continually care about these questions and seek God for how we can best communicate in ways that are -- ahem -- 2008 relevant.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I am a relevance fanatic. Well, maybe fanatic is too strong a word, but i'm at least frenetic about it, if not fanatical.

It's not 1959 any more - the year I was born, if you're interested. It is 2008. The WORD certainly remains the same. The WORLD does not. The WORD is a whole lot older than 1959, of course. So is the WORLD. Today, there are questions about human cloning, same-sex marraiges, space stations, gas prices, world hunger, AIDS, terrorism, refugee camps, assisted suicide, teen pregnancy, genocide, post-modernism and so much more. We need to give the WORD to the WORLD in the context of these issues. SOMEONE out there is giving them answers. Shouldn't the people who know the GOD with all the answers be trying to as well?

There is a bend coming in the road (we're already in it actually) where we have to decide whether or not we're going to walk it. Preachers down thru the centuries, beginning WAY WAY back, have had to come to terms with it.

When Jesus called His disciples to reach Samaria, He exposed the disciples to a great challenge because "Jews have no dealings with Samaritans." (John 4:9) Think about how difficult that had to be for the disciples - reaching out and loving the very people they had been taught all their lives to despise.

Paul always loved his own people. But God called him to the Gentiles. WHO??

We used to tell "Polish" jokes. Remember those? But if you've ever actually BEEN to Poland and seen the lovely people who live there, you probably don't tell those any longer. The world is shrinking.

If you stand in line to buy a book at Barnes & Noble, there among the racks leading up to the register you'll find those little novelty books. They have titles like:
'Itty Bitty Buddha'
'The Voodoo Kit'
'Yoga to Go'
'Jesus: He's Your Answer'
'Therapist in a Box'
'Little Book of Happiness'
'The Wash-Away-Your-Sins Soap Bar'

All of those confusions tell us what people think it means (or DOESN'T mean) to follow God/god today. One author said: 'In a Christianized, less secular culture, you can jump right to the commitment ... go right to the Gospel presentation ... but secular people have many more stages to go through.'

It forces us to face the fact that you can be inconsistent in doctrine (aren't we ALL?), you can be mistaken about some things (aren't we ALL?), and yet, if you've put a simple faith in Him, you can truly be following Christ one step at a time. SANCTIFICATION IS A PROCESS.

So am I fanatical and frenetic about relevance? You bet I am. And ... I am committed to communicating the timeless message in ways this culture can relate to and embrace. Let's keep this conversaton going. Stay tuned.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I don't know if you believe in miracles or not. I'm talking REAL miracles. Not, "I came out of the hotel and there was a taxi right there waiting for me - that's a MIRACLE." No, not that. Not, "I found gas today for $3.85 a gallon - that was a MIRACLE." Not that either. Not, "I made it back from downtown Chicago on a Friday night after work in less than an hour. That could never happen without a miracle." No.

I'm talking about bold-faced, irrefutable, no-nonsense, beyond gravity MIRACLES. The kind where a man with cancer is suddenly clean -- where blind eyes are opened -- where the axhead floats -- where a girl underwater for five minutes who has stopped breathing, breathes again and is perfect. THAT kind of miracle.

Do you believe? A 2005 Harris poll of 900 American adults found that 73 percent believe in miracles. Despite opposition from famous skeptics like Richard Dawkins, the majority of people continue to believe miracles have occurred in the past and still continue today. For Christ-followers, belief in miracles is foundational. Thirty-six miracles are reported in the Four Gospels alone, taking place in front of thousands of eyewitnesses. The Apostle Peter, in his famous sermon in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, referred his audience to "Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs."

So, what about today? Do miracles still happen in 2008? I believe they do. I saw it today with my own eyes today and it was amazing. I feel like I have been a Thomas for far too long - but I am Thomas no longer.

And be blessed.


The poll based on the June 27th blog has been removed because it is not working properly. Sorry.

I am involved with a group of men once a month who read a book together and then meet to talk about it. The group is called "Champions." What has been great about it is seeing twelve men, originally basic strangers to one another, come into the same room and over a six-month period, develop bonded relationship with each another. The other very significant thing is seeing the work of God deepen in these men's lives. There is something extraordinarily miraculous about it.

Tonight there was a sense of soberness about our personal lives - laughter at some of the crazy
things that have happened to us - concern for our families - repentance over sin - and a transparency that was refreshingly bold.

I am blessed to share life with these men who have become my friends. If you're listening guys, thanks.

Be blessed.