Sinking

A little while ago a series of events unfolded, leading me to reflect on the sum of those events taking place all in one day: Wildfire smoke from eastern WA; wildfires around us in western WA; a power outage (that ended up lasting 40 hours); poor air quality means we should not open windows; and the First day of school was postponed. And all of this in the midst of a pandemic. I posted my list on Facebook and concluded my list with a funny movie reference and then asked, “It cannot possibly get any worse, right?” My intention was to be funny, but many people did not see it that way. Some people concluded I was struggling, maybe even depressed. They offered words and prayers of support. A congregation member asked me later if I was doing better. Even though I was trying to be funny, I think my heart was trying to show me something I was forgetting. Soon after I posted my list on Facebook, a seminary classmate commented: “Pandemic, civil unrest, and the heat wave coming tomorrow. Yet Christ’s promises to you remain unchanged.” YES! Christ’s promises to me remain unchanged. A couple days later my morning devotion was about Peter walking on the water with Jesus. When Peter looked at the raging storm around him, he began to sink. I had taken my eyes off Jesus and I was sinking along with Peter.

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” [Matthew 14:31]

I do not know, but what I do know is that my faithful Lord and Savior reached out to me as my heart cried out. He sent people into my life to proclaim the Truth. He clung to me with those nail-pierced hands and carried me safely to shore. When Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, he declared those whom he saved – saved. He declared that Satan no more has a hold on you. Jesus defeated hopelessness and fear. Jesus reigns on high now, and forever more.

And so, instead of a list of woes and other negatives going on, I am focusing on the blessings in my life: two beautiful children excited for school, a healthy family, less arthritic back pain, the wildfires did not touch my home or church. So much for which to thank and praise God, and when I do, my heart is led to worship. Look to your blessings and not the challenges of this year. Below is a poem I wrote in June 2015 that speaks of my heart today. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

I love You in the morning,
I love You in the eve;
for You are always with me,
and ever will You be.

I thank You with my whole heart,
I thank You all my life;
for You are holy awesome,
and ever be my Light.

Jesus is my Lord and Life,
for his life did he give.
You are always faithful, God,
and ever will I Live.

The Forest

Following Jesus is one of trust,
like walking through a
forest
and not knowing the way.
Trees –
all looking the same.
Paths –
some looking safe
some looking scary.
Eyes –
watching and judging and waiting.
Noises –
a jumbled mess.
Some days I feel
lost,
but then his gentle hand
reassures.
And just when I think that I am through the
forest,
there is a
cliff.
And Jesus says jump.

But Rather

The following prayer initially grew out of frustration of how I perceive many people – including many in the Church – responding to this pandemic. I see people attacking each other on social media and others spreading misinformation. I hear conversations of people fixated on this virus. I have seen this pandemic bring out the worst in people.

Yes, this world is steeped in sin and thus it is subject to decay and death. Yes, Satan is prowling round looking for someone to devour. Yes, nothing we do here will save us. Our only hope is Jesus, who died for our sins and rose from the grave to give us the hope of the resurrection and peace with God, yet many are still not at ease.

You see, the problem is that the gods of this world are being threatened and their subjects are rising up in an effort to defend these gods. Yes, even people who claim Jesus as their Lord are going to battle for these gods. It’s as if Jesus is not enough. Really?!? People need to stop and trust God and Him alone. They need to let these gods go and watch our sovereign God do a new thing. We need to take a step back and trust Jesus. And so I wrote this prayer. I, for one – with the help from God – refuse to fall prey to Satan’s schemes.

Let us pray…


Sovereign God,
I praise You for:
Your power and might,
Your grace and mercy,
Your love and healing.
I praise You for:
Your tender care,
Your outstretched arms,
Your holiness.
I praise You for Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.
Oh God, I am Yours, and therefore:
I refuse to dwell on what I cannot do but rather embrace what You are doing.
I refuse to point my finger of blame but rather raise my hands of worship to You.
I refuse to lament the loss of “normal” but rather wait expectantly the transformation You are bringing.
I refuse to live in fear but rather live joyfully in You.
I refuse to cling to “what we have always done” but rather embrace new beginnings.
I refuse to be self-absorbed but rather pursue the welfare of others.
I refuse to dwell in anything and anyone but You.
Oh God, my Fortress and Shield,
Keep my eyes on You.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen

The Boat

The waves are monstrous,
The wind is fierce,
And my feeble little boat is no match for this storm.
I try and try, but I make no head way.
I fight and battle but continue to lose ground.
And the storm rages on.
The storm wants to lay claim to this boat –
to bring it down into the deep.
It fights and threatens.
It claws and bites,
and my feeble little boat is no match for this storm.
Jesus, where are you?!?
Wait — you are right here,
in my feeble little boat.
You are right here with me,
as the storm rages on.
Now I am at peace.
Now I can be still and know –
for nothing can touch me
as long as Jesus is in the boat with me –
in this feeble, broken down, little boat.
The storm rages on,
but it will never claim me,
not with Jesus in my boat.

Blindness

The following is the opening to the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday, March 22. The text is John 9:35-41 — the ending of the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. I will be live streaming on YouTube at 9:30 AM (PST). I will lead worship and we will partake in Holy Communion together. “How?” you may ask, well, tune in and find out – just make sure you have your bread and wine/grape juice (or whatever) ready to go.

The church’s website, that will give you live streaming instructions, is: http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com


People who are blind have learned to adjust to their blindness. They have learned to rely on their other senses to help them navigate their darkness. They have resources, people and other aids to help them do everyday tasks. In every sense of the word, they can lead somewhat normal lives just like everyone else. I’ve never been blind, so I am simply speaking as an outside observer – so please forgive any blindness on my part. I have, though, been in dark, dark places where I could not rely on my sight, but rather, on my other senses and knowledge of the environment – like walking through a dark room. But no matter your knowledge of your environment or the keenness of your senses, there is always a stray Lego on which to step.

Now imagine, being blind or in a dark, dark place – unfamiliar to you – and you hear a low, scary growl. That is enough to send fear coursing through the strongest of people – not knowing where to turn. My friends, we are in a dark and unfamiliar place and the low, scary growl is all around us. To whom shall we go in this darkness? To whom shall we place our trust?

To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Complete Control

Yes God, You are worthy of all praise and worship.
You are worthy of all glory and honor.
You are worthy.
Oh God, words cannot adequately express how thankful I am that You are a sovereign God – that You are in complete control. We are living in interesting times.
Many are fearful.
Many are confused about how to live.
Many are wondering where You are…

…Holy God, You are right here.

And even though my ways are not Your ways and my thoughts are not Your thoughts, I know that Your ways will not be diverted, slowed down, stopped or hindered in any way. In the end, You will and have won – through Jesus Christ who died and rose for the forgiveness of sins – defeating sin, death and Satan forever. Hold us firm, Father God, in that promise that we may continue to glorify You, now and forever. Amen

Heart and Soul

The following is the most recent article I submitted to The News Tribune (Tacoma). To God be the glory.


On Sunday, NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, lost their lives in a tragic helicopter crash near Los Angeles. The news caught my attention even though I was never a Lakers fan. You see, there was just something about watching Kobe that produced a sense of awe in how he played. He was a unique individual with a unique talent. He entered the league at the young age of 17 and made an immediate impact – winning 5 championships. His talent was off the charts. His competitive drive inspired a generation. His will to win was unmatched. Following his untimely death on Sunday, people began mourning over Kobe – many of whom had never met him but were inspired by him. Though he made his share of mistakes, people are not soon going to forget the name: Kobe Bryant. But this is just the beginning of my concern for this generation, and I say this with all due respect.

My concern stems from a comment I heard him say in an interview that was aired during a tribute to him on Sunday night. The comment was this: “I gave my heart and soul to the game of basketball.” Let that sink in for a moment. Some may say that there is nothing wrong with that – that he just gave it his all during his career – and that he did. You see, I am not claiming I know the status of his eternity. Only God knows that. I read a blog post that said Kobe was a devout Catholic, but I don’t know his heart. What I am trying to say is that I am concerned about a generation who believes that giving their “heart and soul” to anything of this world is a good thing. I came across a quote on Twitter recently from a respected theologian that said – “If you don’t live for Jesus you will live for something else. Will those things be enough? Will they die for you?” Now let that sink in for a moment. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I say all of this because, for me, I gave my heart and soul to the one who died for me – Jesus Christ. Why? Because I am a sinner and nothing of this world can save me. No amount of intelligence, money, fame, popularity, prestige or strength matters when death comes calling. And when death does come, it does not discriminate. But, if you belong to Jesus, death is just a doorway: sin, death and the power of Satan have been defeated by Jesus Christ through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. As a sinner, you are unable to save yourself.

My hope and prayer is that Kobe’s statement was just that – a statement of how hard he played the game. I also pray, that if you have not given your heart and soul to Jesus, that you will look deep within and see the mess that you are, and then see the beauty and grace of Jesus. Give your heart and soul to the One who keeps your heart and soul for all eternity. Amen.

Father, Good Night

Father God,
I lay my life in Your hands this night.
Give me peace that I will be alright.
Shine on me that I’ll dwell in Your light.
Keep me close and always hold me tight.
You are my God – my complete delight
Father, I am wholly Yours – Good night.

The Hill

Holy God,
On Your Word I will stand.
On no other place will I plant my flag.
For Jesus is the Word made flesh thus,
To no one but Jesus will I tie my identity;
To no one but Jesus will I cling.
When push comes to shove,
My stand on Your Word will be the hill that I will die upon.
And if I die on that hill,
So be it –
I know my life rests in You.
You are my God and it’s You I will proclaim.
You are my hope in Jesus Christ my Lord.
Many cling to that which does not matter.
May I live in such a way that proclaims that which I stand upon.
Holy God, Father and Creator,
My identity is wrapped in the righteousness of Jesus.
And thus it is Your Word on which I will stand.
It is the hill I will die upon.
To You be all glory, honor, thanks and praise.
In the beautiful name of Jesus I pray,
Amen!

A Confirmation Blessing

The following is a confirmation blessing I wrote in honor of my niece, Meara, who is professing her faith today. I had the privilege of baptizing her in 2004 (my second ever baptism) and now I am here in Minnesota to be part of her big day. I pray that God may work in her heart to bring glory to his name through her life.


Today you profess your faith,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
May your light shine ever bright,
With him you are adored.

Stand firm and never back down,
Though Satan push against.
For God is your strong fortress,
Through Jesus he’s dispensed.

You are His beloved child,
Forever in His arms.
So don’t ever fear or fret,
With Him will come no harm.

So proclaim your faith boldly,
And never be ashamed.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
You are forever claimed.