Mayah’s Poem

The following is my newest article for the Buffalo Center Tribune. To God be ALL glory, Amen.


About four to five years ago I started to write poetry. No, these are nothing that are book worthy or something for which to cross the street. They are simply smatterings that come from my heart. Sometimes the rhyming is a little corny and I probably break all the poetry rules (if there is such a thing). But suffice it to say, I write these poems as an intellectual exercise but mostly as a spiritual discipline. Thinking about word choices in order to communicate a message in a powerful and meaningful way is something that leads me into deeper thought and reflection on the given topic. But sometimes I make things way too difficult (in poetry and in life). At times I get frustrated when I cannot come up with the perfect word(s) to rhyme with other word(s) that I have chosen. Sometimes I can spend days or longer working on a poem. Sometimes I walk away from the poem and thus forget about it; allowing the moment to pass. Sometimes I turn this simple joy into work and thus lose the joy. Sometimes I just need to take a page out of my daughter’s book.


One night my wife and I were preparing supper. As we started to put everything on the table, we called to our children to wash their hands and come to the table to eat, but both were preoccupied. Malachi was busy with his Legos and Mayah was downstairs in what we call her art studio. After my wife and I got everything set we called to them again, but still nothing. Frustration arose and we were getting annoyed. My wife and I eventually started dishing up our plates. We were going to eat with or without our children. Eventually Mayah showed up and excitedly asked, “Can I pray tonight? I wrote a prayer poem. Can I pray? Please!” I immediately felt guilty for being annoyed and responded, “Of course you can.” We stopped dishing up our plates in order to pray. This is what my 8-year-old daughter wrote (I share this with her permission):


God, thank you for this food.
I may or may not be in a good mood.
You comfort my family.
You give us clothes to keep us warmily.
You keep us happy when we may not be.
I love you because you love me.


And yes, I know “warmily” is not a word, and she may have broken every poetry rule in the book, but that’s alright, for it came from her tender, loving heart. Sometimes we just need to stop making things so difficult and become like a child. Sometimes we just need to slow down and not take things so seriously. My daughter’s prayer was one of the best prayers I have heard in a very long time; for it spoke to my heart. Thank you, Mayah, for your prayer poem. Thank you for making a “difficult” thing look so easy. Thank you for sharing your heart and the joy within. To God be all glory, praise and honor. Amen.

Long Evening Walk

Well here we go, I am back at it. After writing articles for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for a few years while serving at Living Word Lutheran Church, I am now writing in my new community. Below is my first article for the Buffalo Center Tribune in Buffalo Center, IA. My articles are due the first and third Thursday of the month and will be published the following Tuesday. To God be the glory!


My family and I went for a walk one evening. We headed north on 4th Street NE and enjoyed the evening air. I was keenly aware of the beautiful corn field to my right. Quite a change from my former scenery in the Pacific Northwest. We used to live in the shadow of Mount Rainier in the Tacoma/Puyallup area. We had many scenic evening walks there, but this walk here was going to be different – a good different. As we headed north, we could tell that it was going to be a gorgeous sunset. We got to 7th Avenue NE and we had to turn west toward the setting sun. We arrived near AG Performance and there it was – the sun setting over the fields. I wanted to stare but that would not have been good for the eyes. So, I took glimpses through my shielding fingers and snapped a picture on my phone. Staring at that will not hurt my eyes but it definitely does not do the scene justice. We proceeded to head south and work our way home. It was a school night and shower night for the kiddos, so there was no time to waste, but as I said earlier, this walk was going to be a good different.


You see, during our walk we encountered something to which we were not accustomed: Friendly people smiling and wanting to greet us and talk. No, they did not know I was the new guy in town, they were just friendly, down to earth people. One woman was walking her dog and let my kids pet it. Pretty soon my son was talking to her about the pines cones he had just found. Other people we encountered did not try to divert their glance but made a point to make eye contact with us in order to say “hi”. I passed by the home of a church member who came out to talk with us. This school night walk took longer than anticipated but I have no complaints. It was a good different.


Do not get me wrong, people in Western Washington are not rude. There are many kind people there that we grew to love dearly, but the culture is just different. It is not small-town Midwest. Maybe you have not noticed but after living away from the Midwest for five years, we definitely noticed. Walking around town here in Buffalo Center is almost like walking around your yard filled with family. I feel safe and I feel comfortable letting my kids go outside to play without me right there.


So, who is this “new guy” writing in the Buffalo Center Tribune? I am the new pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. I am a western central Minnesota kid who was called to Western Washington for five years and now back, called by God to return to the homeland, the Midwest. There is definitely more to me than that, but gauging by our beautiful evening walk, you will probably learn much more about me and my family very soon. Thank you for the warm welcome to the Midwest. Praise be to God and Amen.

My God in My Chaos

To say that my last two months have been crazy and chaotic is an under statement. Actually, my world was turned upside down and inside out. God opened doors but Satan came swooping in to trip me up (literally, in one case). My faith was challenged and my family was and has been stretched thin. But through it all, God has been my stronghold and mighty fortress. He has been my life preserver when it felt like I was drowning. God has been awesome and amazing. If only I had kept my eyes open, it would have gone so much better.

The following is a summary of the wild events that took place and the subsequent faithfulness of my God:

Sunday, June 13 ~ I received and accepted a call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Buffalo Center, IA.

Monday, June 14 ~ I got up early in the morning as I normally do. After getting into the bathroom I became light-headed (doctors later determined I was dehydrated). I passed out and upon falling and hitting the floor, I fractured the right side of my face in three places. The next thing I remember is my wife standing over me. Thankfully she heard the thud of my fall. I spent the next 36 hours in the hospital, all in the ER as there were no regular rooms available. It was a miserable experience.

Tuesday, June 15 ~ I returned home with a dent in my face, broken facial bones and swelling. I was on a no sneezing or blowing my nose restriction. Let me tell you, that was no picnic for a guy with allergies. Two hours after returning home, I attended the scheduled council meeting at Living Word Lutheran Church and submitted my resignation. This had been the plan since Sunday, just not my hospital stay.

June 15 and following ~ I began sitting at home icing my broken face and beating myself up. I was thinking that I could have prevented this if only I had returned to bed or sat on the floor when I got light-headed. The guilt on my shoulders was heavy as I saw my family paying the price (at least that is how I saw it).

Sunday, June 20 ~ Not feeling very well, I lead worship and announced my resignation to the congregation. A very emotional day.

Thursday, June 24 ~ I had my pre-op appointment and got scheduled for surgery. This was also the beginning of four dark days for me. Because of the fall, my back arthritis was exasperated causing me a great deal of pain. The weird thing was that it took just over a week to flare up. I would eventually end up on crutches. And to make matters worse, the one thing that would have alleviated my pain – Advil – I could not take because of my up coming surgery. The next few days I was literally crying out to God. I am not afraid to say it, but there were a lot of tears shed.

Sunday, June 27 ~ Still in a lot of pain, I wasn’t sure how I was going to lead worship. But before even asking, a retired pastor in the congregation was already prepared to help me. A power outage, though, eventually canceled in-person worship so I got to live stream worship from the comforts of my couch.

Monday, June 28 (9 AM) ~ What a way to start my first day of vacation – a broken face and surgery looming. But first things first, I had one more chiropractor appointment before surgery. Upon returning home from that appointment, I was in so much back pain I could barely step up into my house. There was more crying out and more tears.

June 28 (12:30 PM) ~ We left for Seattle for surgery, but more importantly, God alleviated my back pain.

June 28 (2 PM) ~ I checked in for surgery. It was supposed to be a 1 1/2 hour procedure to have one small titanium plate put into my face. When they got in there, though, they found more bone fragments than expected and had to put in a bigger plate and an additional L-shaped plate. Four hours later I was in recovery and returned home later that night.

Tuesday, June 29 and following ~ (remember, I’m on vacation) Because of my recovery we had to cancel our annual family vacation back to the Midwest. There was much sadness over that (and some tears). And, I felt incredibly guilty as I was still blaming myself.

Sunday, August 1 ~ I presided over my final worship service at Living Word Lutheran Church. Another very emotional day.

Monday, August 2 ~ I had my third and final post-op appointment and my doctor was extremely pleased and impressed with my recovery. Some of the numbness had gone away which surprised her.

Now:
I’m Iron Man (my wife is rolling her eyes someplace) and feeling much better. I still have some numbness in my face due to the crushed nerve from my fall, but I am getting more and more feeling back. It could be a year or more before all the feeling is back (if it ever does come back). My back is much better but still gets stiff if I over do it. All in all, I am returning to more and more normal activities and for that I praise God.

Why am I writing all of this:
I say all of this to glorify God because, after all, He is awesome.
It is HIM who sustained me and my family during this chaos.
It is HIM who kept me grounded.
It is HIM who brought me healing.
I could not have kept my sanity and my faith if it were not for my amazing, awesome and faithful God. And those dark moments days before surgery — yes, they were scary and awful. I thought I was abandoned and left alone to suffer, but that was not the case. I was never alone. I simply had my eyes closed and did not see my Father standing there with His arms wide open. I wish I had opened my eyes, but now I know. I know for certain. My Father will never leave me.

Chaos, suffering, pain in one’s life is not the absence of God. It is a result of the sinfulness of our world. The Good News is that God has overcome the sin of this world and has redeemed you and me through Jesus Christ. I was never alone. YOU are never alone. Through Jesus I have the victory. Through Jesus YOU have the victory. I am a child of God. Through Jesus YOU are a child of God. In your suffering, open your eyes and see. Your Father is there.

So there you have it — to God be ALL the glory!

Amen!

Thoughts and Ways

The following is my second to last article for The News Tribune (Tacoma). My final article is due to be published on August 1 – my final Sunday at Living Word. It has been a joy to write these articles over the years. A big THANK YOU to The News Tribune for publishing these articles. I hope continue writing articles after I get settled in my new call in Buffalo Center, Iowa. I begin serving there on August 29. To God be the glory – always. Amen.


We have an awesome, incredible, loving, and gracious God. He is mighty to save. He is abundant in mercy. He is faithful to never, ever turn His back on us. Though we may not understand or enjoy the circumstances, God is in complete control. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” But I still wish I understood better God’s thoughts and ways because it gets frustrating when things do not go my way.


I never would have planned these past few weeks. My family and I were supposed to go to the Midwest and vacation with family over the July 4th holiday. This is an annual event to which we look forward, but unfortunate circumstances in my life changed those thoughts and ways. I will save you all the details lest I take glory away from God. Suffice it to say, it was an injury that required surgery, but I am doing well now. We had planned our way and were thinking thoughts, but all of that got thrown up in the air and scattered in the wind. There was much lamenting and even a few tears over why this was happening. I even had a couple dark moments when I felt utterly alone and abandoned. I began to relate to the psalmist at times as he lamented and wondered where God was. But as I wrote earlier, God was and is faithful to never, ever turn His back on His children. God never abandoned me.


In the grand scheme of things, my pain and discomfort really was and is not that bad, especially when I think of what others are going through. But I like my ways and thoughts and thus when they get disrupted, I whine. But I praise God that He is faithful. Though I may whine at times, God is still there to remind me that He has a bigger picture in mind. I still do not understand why my circumstances happened, but I know a bigger “why” that leads me to worship this faithful, grace-filled, loving God. I am a sinner, but Jesus died on the cross that I could be forgiven and thus have eternal life with God. The “why” of everything – God is merciful and full of grace and love.


My thoughts and ways are of this world, but God’s thoughts and ways are much bigger. Though things get tough now, God is walking you through them and will never let you go. Though things are confusing, God knows exactly where you are going. Though you disagree with God’s ways and thoughts, trust that, in all His sovereignty, God’s plan is perfect and God’s purpose in your life is holy. Therefore always remember, we have an awesome, incredible, loving, and gracious God. He is mighty to save. He is abundant in mercy. He is faithful to never, ever turn His back on you. Amen.

The Turning Page

The page is turning, the chapter is ending,
But the story is still the same.
The setting is changing with twists and turns,
But the plot is not in flames.

The direction of the story ebbs and flows,
Directed by Your sovereign hand.
You continue to write Your masterpiece,
A story that is so grand.

And being a part of Your perfect story,
In this chapter that’s now ending.
I am thankful that You will always be,
With me forever attending.

And So I thank You God for bringing me here:
The stunning Pacific Northwest.
Now it’s off to Iowa following You,
In You we’ve been truly blessed.