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Life can be hard, no doubt about that.

That first Easter was very hard.  Very, very, very hard.  I was in Clark County Jail and for an independent person, being confined behind bars was tough (but I put myself in that position).  I was slowly learning to walk again, and that pain was uncomfortable but bearable.  I also was learning to write again with my right hand.  I used to have beautiful penmanship but now it just looked like scratches.  Writing with my left hand was ok but took longer.  It was the excruciating pain in learning to write again and work to use my hand again.  The nice thing about that Easter was that my parents and brother were able to visit me.  That lifted me so much. As hard as thought that first Easter behind bars was, the reality is the second Easter behind bars was even tougher.  I learned quick that county jail is a whole lot easier and quieter than prison.  The second Easter I was in Green Bay Reformatory or Green Bay Correctional Institution.  It was lonely, an occasional visitor, but the loneliness would get to you.  I kept busy, working in the ... Read More »

What is Our Fate?

I recently officiated a funeral and the family had requested a song which, of course, is not that unusual. There have been some interesting requests over the years, but this one was particularly interesting. The request: “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead. I don’t think I even blinked an eye or hesitated and said “Yes.” Then, in a later conversation, I asked about playing another Grateful Dead song: “Ripple”. The two of them go together and talk about life and the realities of life. I have heard and played these two songs many times. You see, I have been a Dead Head (Grateful Dead fan) for a long, long time. I did some research, and this is what I found. “Friend of the Devil” lyrics follow the trail of an unnamed narrator on the run for reasons unknown, doing his best to stay ahead of various pursuers – a couple of wives, the sheriff, 20 hounds and the Devil himself. His fate? We never learn. “Friend of the Devil” was co-authored by Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter and John “Marmaduke” Dawson, the lead vocalist of the New Riders of ... Read More »

Plans Fail. Dreams Shatter.

Tonight, I walked in from the store with my arms full and a brand new candle in my bag. As I struggled to get it all on the counter, one bag dropped and I heard the glass break. My brand new candle was ruined as the glass shattered. Frustrated, I was ready to throw the whole thing away. My wife refused to let me do so. “It will still light; it will still serve its’ purpose,” she stated. Immediately, I began to argue back…. “But it’s broken and ugly and glass is everywhere. It’s just not the same.” I walked away and when I came back, she had placed the candle on the counter and lit the wick. My heart immediately was drawn to the light. How often do we do this in our own lives or with others? Things don’t turn out the way we want them to. Plans fail. Dreams shatter. Goals hit the floor. People break our hearts. And we are ready to throw the whole dang thing in the trash. Even though it can still light…. still shine…. still bring the fragrance of goodness. It just ... Read More »

“Please Rescue Me From This Mess!”

Have you ever said (maybe even yelled) to God: “Please rescue me from this mess!” Have you ever asked why God is not intervening and become impatient? Have you ever thought to yourself: how can I fly with the eagles when I cannot even get off the ground? I think we all have probably asked these questions… and others. “All at once from out of the sky came a sound like a mighty rushing wind. Bilbo looked up and saw the treetops lashing to and fro against the stars. It was difficult to tell in the dark, but he thought he could discern huge, winged shadows swooping down from the heavens and wheeling above the forest. At the same time, he heard a great shout and saw Gandalf, in one last burst of effort, heaving himself to the very summit of his shuddering pine. The next thing Bilbo knew, Gandalf was soaring skyward, gripped in the talons of a gigantic eagle. The great birds seemed to be everywhere now, picking the dwarves out of the branches, and bearing them skyward. ‘Quick!’ shouted Dori from somewhere above Bilbo’s head, his voice ... Read More »

“You Smell Like a Skunk!”

This story was not to have been told, it was going to be my secret to the day I died. However, things do not always go the way you plan … I had been up on our farm and had returned home. I walked into the house and said hi to my wife and she replied: “You smell like a skunk!” I had no idea the smell had come with me. Thus, I had to tell her the story. I had been up to our farm and had been working outside most of the day. I came in for supper, did a few more things outside and then was working on my sermon, other ministerial items and personal items. I had heard noises a couple of times, but it is an old farmhouse and I hear noises all of the time. It was getting late; I was dozing off at my laptop and I thought I might as well go to bed. I was exhausted. I realized then that I had left my CPAP in the truck. So, I started to go through the garage to go outside when I ... Read More »

“None of us Know Where That Deadline Is …”

Last month we did a sermon series based on Levi Lusko’s “Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power.” God knew but little did we know that it came at a time when our community and churches struggled with sickness and death. We are reminded that there is always hope and that we are to go forward … “Some super wise person once observed that most people die at twenty-five and aren’t buried until they’re seventy-five. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let your soul stop growing, and don’t give in even if your stomach is growling. Your greatest days are still to come. I dare you to believe that the day will come where what you are most scared of right now will be included in your highlight reel as a triumphant victory. The only way to truly live is to run toward the roar. That is actually what I want to leave you with in this final chapter – the inevitability of you dropping dead. Here’s the truth of it: life is a timed test. We’re all living against a deadline. The Bible ... Read More »

“It’s Time to Slow Down”

I recently turned 60 (October 1) and yes, I have beaten the odds and hope to continue to do so. A close friend of mine (Mike) is unsure how we made it thus far and I have to agree with him. There was a point in my life where I knew that I would never see this age, but I am glad to be wrong and Thank You, Lord! I only wish our classmates had all made it to this age. My High School class has, unfortunately, lost a lot of folks over the years for various reasons – none of old age. Recently we tragically lost another classmate and I have thought and prayed and wondered if I could have made a difference. I hadn’t seen this classmate since High School and really have lost touch with most of my classmates over the years. In the last few years, I have made contact again with some of them, but not many. After I heard of my classmate’s passing, I contacted a couple of my other classmates and we shared memories and discussed the sadness our class has experienced. Then ... Read More »

“We’re All in This Together”

I heard a song the other day that I had not heard in a long time. It was by one of my favorite groups, Old Crow Medicine Show and the song was “We’re All in This Together.” Part of the lyrics go like this: “Everyone is special in their own way, We make each other strong (we make each other strong), We’re not the same, We’re different in a good way, Together’s where we belong.” “In the song ‘Love Supreme’ by John Coltrane there is a poem. The poem begins: A Love Supreme. I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee, O Lord. It all has to do with it. Thank You God. I remember the first time I read this poem. The phrase that stayed with me the most was ‘It all has to do with it.’ ‘It’s all connected, it all has to do with it.’ It does all have to do with It. Psychologically and spiritually, this is true in our lives as our day-to-day living most certainly intersects in important ways in our inner lives. But it all has to do with It ... Read More »

“Uncloudy Day”

Just a few thoughts today as lately I have been thinking a lot (which is always scary). I got in my pickup yesterday and ol’ Willie was singing “Uncloudy Day”, one of my favorite gospel songs. Lately we have had a lot of cloudy days and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. How are you handling it? Do you remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? Watching and listening to Eeyore usually made me as depressed as he was. He always had a bleak outlook on life, and never felt any positive emotions like happiness and excitement. I remember one conversation after Eeyore had lost his tail and then got a new one. Winnie the Pooh asks: “So, are you finally happy, Eeyore?” Eeyore answers: “No, but I sure do like this new tail.” “Weary is a weighty word. It brings to mind heavy eyelids and aching joints, the worn out faces of those who have been borne too much. To be truly weary is a state of both body and soul. The women’s swollen face after she’s cried all that she can cry. The burned-out man collapsing on ... Read More »

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

What does freedom mean to you? Freedom can mean so many things and can mean something different for each person. It can be physically being in handcuffs or leg cuffs and finally getting them off, it can mean getting out of a toxic relationship, a bad work situation … the list can go on and on. Sometimes you forget about being in shackles or being imprisoned or walls seemingly closing in on you. The other day I heard Branded Man by Merle Haggard (who was also in prison and turned his life around). Part of the lyrics go like this: “When they let me out of prison, I held my head up high, determined I would rise above the shame. But no matter where I travel, the black mark follows me, I’m branded with a number on my name.” Wow, hearing that song brought back a lot of memories! A little while later I hear another favorite, L.A. Freeway. The song was written by Guy Clark and made popular by Jerry Jeff Walker. Part of the lyrics go like this: “If I can just get off of this L.A. freeway ... Read More »

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